FDA Food Inspections Inadequate

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More details of the FDA food inspection travesty. If the agency wasn't so concerned with a CYA mentality, and if it wasn't connected at the hip with Agribusiness, perhaps some positive change might occur from these hearings. I'm skeptical. I don't have the figures in front of me at the moment, but there is a tendency for Agribusiness and food manufacturing executives to work for the FDA, then return to work in the same industry.


FDA Food Inspections Inadequate:
The FDA is spread so thin inspectors see less than 1% of food imports, a report to Congress found. The situation is on course to get worse.
Congressional investigators are expected to tell a House subcommittee today that the Food and Drug Administration's ability to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply is “minimal” and agency plans to overhaul its inspection regime could make a bad situation worse.

FDA officials, under fire for the recent string of high-profile food scares involving both domestic and imported foods, have been asked to appear before a House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee hearing to discuss the agency's food inspections.

Committee staff reviewed the system extensively and found that a shrinking inspection staff examines less than 1% of all imported food. A typical inspector in the FDA's San Francisco office examines nearly 1,000 food entries a day -- roughly one every 30 seconds, the committee report found. The agency, it says, allows importers to take possession of their high-risk goods and arrange for testing by a private laboratory. Before melamine-contaminated pet food killed and sickened thousands of pets, the FDA had never inspected those ingredients from China.

The FDA is trying to reorganize its field operations, but the report says some of its measure may backfire. Only a small percentage of its senior scientists are willing to be transferred if the agency closes seven of 13 laboratories. And in boxes of documents delivered to congressional investigators to explain the reasoning behind the closures, the agency didn't appear to have conducted any cost analysis.

The committee investigators also raise questions about the adequacy of the FDA's mostly voluntary approach to domestic and imported food. Because of lack of authority, FDA inspectors had been refused by some companies to access their records and test results. With the exceptions of several food categories, “FDA has no rules governing testing protocols, record retention...manufacturing, quality assurance and control, or the right to examine any records that a food-processing firm chooses to keep voluntarily,” the report said.

and from the Trib a few days ago:

Food safety lacks teeth, critics say:

Recent recalls underscore gaps in oversight

The makers of Veggie Booty, a popular snack food recalled from stores late last month, weren't sure what was wrong with their product, according to federal food safety officials. All they knew was that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were telling them that people had eaten Veggie Booty and fallen ill, eventually 61 sickened in 19 states.

That confusion points up just how cumbersome -- badly flawed, critics say -- the nation's food recall procedures can be, both for consumers and companies. Under the current system, the federal agencies responsible for food safety can't actually force companies to issue recalls. And when recalls do occur, just a fraction of the tainted food is ever recovered.

Robert's American Gourmet Inc., Veggie Booty's maker, recalled its product at the suggestion of the Food and Drug Administration. But neither the CDC nor FDA ever discovered on their own just what was wrong with Veggie Booty.

That answer came from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which took it upon itself to test suspect bags of Veggie Booty. It informed Robert's American Gourmet of its findings: rare Salmonella Wandsworth.
Following a year of several high-profile food scares and recalls, including cases involving Peter Pan peanut butter tainted with salmonella and bagged spinach that carried E. coli bacteria, some in Congress maintain that the nation's food safety system needs an overhaul.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) have introduced a bill that would strengthen the authority that the FDA and the Department of Agriculture have over food recalls. The USDA regulates meat, poultry and eggs; the FDA regulates all other foods.

The Senate has adopted most of Durbin's bill as an amendment to the FDA's budget reauthorization legislation. It includes provisions that would create a food contamination early warning system and requirements that food companies provide records to regulators upon request.

The House did not include the food safety provisions in its version of the FDA bill, so final adoption is in doubt.

The FDA and USDA currently lack mandatory recall authority; they must ask companies to take back bad food, or, if the situation is extreme, they can go to court to force a company's hand. An exception is the FDA's authority over infant formula.

The Senate declined to approve a mandatory recall provision in Durbin's bill. But the voluntary nature of recalls, critics contend, often leads to a series of expanding recalls as companies reluctantly come to the expensive conclusion that more and more of the product might endanger consumers.

The bill follows recommendations by the Government Accountability Office, which for several years has been sharply critical of the nation's “fragmented” food safety structure. Earlier this year, the GAO placed food safety enforcement on a list of “high risk” items.

The FDA, for some reason, thinks they do a great job, and surprisingly [/sarcasm], so does a main industry lobby group, the Food Marketing Institute.

“I think FDA has found over the years that manufacturers, when they learn about a problem either through their own testing or complaints that come to them provided by FDA or other organizations, they generally try to do the right thing,” said Dave Elder, director of the FDA's Office of Enforcement.

Deborah White, vice president and associate general counsel of the Food Marketing Institute, said the government has an “extremely efficient recall system. We and others agree that it can be improved. We're always looking for ways to do that from the retail perspective, and working with our supplier partners as well.

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I was stupefied the other day when Nicolas showed mean article from the Lost Angles Times which described how some meat contain an additive to make them lean. It was the Chinese bitching about that. It is legal here, see?

We buy our organic stuff at Trader Joe's or Wild Oats (expensivo) This food situation can induce one to ANA-MIA, not a bad idea for my weight loss;P

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This page contains a single entry by swanksalot published on July 18, 2007 11:04 AM.

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