F.D.A. Inspections a Joke

We've been reading in horror the last few days re the incredible ineptitude and malfeasance of the FDA, who only seems concerned with getting through the day without too many kids dying. The Republicans who controlled the FDA budget must have calculated a few deaths would only help cull out the weaker members of society - you know, those who don't reliably vote Republican anyway. But the Dems (allegedly) are in charge of the Congressional purse strings now (at least in the few instances when they haven't already caved in to demands from the White House), are there going to be changes at the FDA?

Sometimes A Fish(erman) needs a Bicycle

F.D.A. Inspections Lax, Congress Is Told:

According to testimony Tuesday, exporters have been able to bring tainted products into the U.S. because the F.D.A. has neither enough resources nor inspectors to stop them.

ccording to testimony Tuesday before a House subcommittee, they have been able to bring tainted products into this country because the F.D.A. has neither enough resources nor inspectors to stop them. And each year it has become easier: since 2003, the number of inspectors has decreased while imports of food alone have almost doubled.

Recently consumers have had a crash course in the hazards of imported products, especially those from China: pet food and pig and chicken feed contaminated with melamine; counterfeit toothpaste with diethylene glycol; fish contaminated with antibiotics and a suspected cancer-causing agent; the use of carbon monoxide to make decomposed fish look fresh.

Despite headlines about these imports, the F.D.A. intends to close 7 of its 13 laboratories that test for these problems. Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the subcommittee, said the closings “would likely expose Americans to even more danger from unsafe food, particularly imports.”
Over all, the Agriculture Department inspects 16 percent of imported meat, while the F.D.A. inspects about 1 percent of the food over which it has jurisdiction. Just a fraction of that is actually sampled.

Another witness Tuesday was David Nelson, an investigator on the oversight subcommittee’s staff who spent more than four months visiting F.D.A. laboratories and customs offices at ports, as well as talking with former and current F.D.A. employees. He said the agency allowed importers to take possession of suspect goods and arrange for their testing by private laboratories that are not approved by the F.D.A.

The subcommittee staff report quoted an F.D.A. official whom it did not identify as saying private lab results were “shoddy” and “driven by financial rather than scientific concerns.”

Once there have been five consecutive analyses of an exporter’s products by private labs, with no violations, importers are no longer required to test products of that exporter.

Importers of swordfish, tuna or mahi mahi, the largest of which are likely to have unacceptable levels of mercury, will switch to smaller fish that can pass the mercury test, the report said. Once the importers have passed the five consecutive analyses, they switch back to the large fish. The report quoted one F.D.A. seafood expert as saying that over half of the imported swordfish probably contains unacceptable levels of mercury.

Importers often go port shopping, the report said. Some fish, for example, are sent to Las Vegas to avoid the lab in San Francisco lab, where inspectors have earned a reputation for their analytical skills. The San Francisco lab is scheduled for closing.

and this isn't a recent problem:

According to the subcommittee report, the F.D.A. has long been aware of the widespread use of antibiotics in farm-raised fish from China and other countries, but it did not issue an import alert for catfish, shrimp and several other farm-raised fish until the committee started investigating. China produces 70 percent of farm-raised fish worldwide.

“The timing of the import alert is curious,” the report says.

Since the 1990s the agency has known that in imported fish frozen after being treated with carbon monoxide to keep it looking fresh, 20 percent was actually decomposed. Yet in 2001 the agency gave use of the gas the status of “generally recognized as safe.”

“How does a public health authority permit this?” Mr. Nelson asked.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on July 17, 2007 11:45 PM.

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