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FDA: Hamburg Outlines Tougher Food Safety Enforcement

In a speech before food and drug lawyers Thursday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Hamburg emphasized the need for a “strong FDA” and outlined new food safety enforcement measures.

“A strong FDA has credibility with the public. A strong FDA is transparent in explaining its decisions. A strong FDA pursues creative solutions to longstanding problems and is always looking for novel ways to prevent illness and promote health. And a strong FDA enforces the law,” said Hamburg.

Hamburg’s remarks, her first focusing on food safety since her confirmation, signal the agency’s commitment to strengthening enforcement and improving public confidence in the food system after a long string of high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks.

“Ultimately, an effective enforcement strategy creates public confidence in FDA oversight…which in turn keeps trust in the safety of FDA-regulated products from eroding. Such confidence is critical to the long-term interest of both consumers and industry,” said Hamburg, who stressed that food safety enforcement was beneficial for food companies because it would maintain “a level playing field for safe products.”

Hamburg outlined several improved enforcement steps the agency was taking to catch adulteration, false labeling, or inadequate product quality.

The most significant steps include follow-up investigations after warning letters or major recalls, and limiting warning letter review by the FDA’s Chief Counsel to “significant legal issues”–a departure from the previous Administration, which required review for all warning letters

Hamburg also noted that the FDA “will be prepared to act swiftly and aggressively to protect the public,” explaining that the FDA would no longer send several warning letter to noncompliant companies. “If we find that we must move quickly to address significant health concerns or egregious violations, we will consider immediate action–even before we have issued a formal warning letter.”

Photo courtesy Food and Drug Administration

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