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Food Safety News

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Report Shows Decline in FDA Inspections

Federal inspections of food manufacturing facilities and federal enforcement actions against food companies are decreasing, according to a government report released this week.

According to a new report from the Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspects less than a quarter of food facilities every year, and more than half of all food facilities have gone five or more years without a federal inspection.

Public health officials, consumer advocates, and members of Congress who have been pressing for an overhaul of the FDA’s capacity to regulate the food supply say the the report is further evidence the Senate needs to act on pending food safety legislation. The House passed a similar food safety bill in July, which would give FDA mandatory recall authority, greater access to records, and require food facilities to have food safety plans.
 
“We need legislation that will direct us and empower us to be proactive, not reactive,” Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, told the Washington Post this week after the report was released. “The legislation pending in Congress will open up entirely new and much more effective ways to do prevention.”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Health, Education, and Labor Committee, which unanimously approved the Senate food safety bill in November, echoed the same support for the pending legislation.

“This new report shows what we have feared for too long: that that our domestic food facilities are not being adequately inspected and FDA needs additional authorities to keep the food on our tables safe,” said Harkin in a statement yesterday. “This is unacceptable in our modern society and an important reminder that we must provide FDA with the needed tools to properly inspect food facilities and effectively react to problems in order to ensure the safety of the food American families eat.  Quite simply, picking up food at the grocery store should not be a health risk.”



“This legislation is long overdue and it is my hope that we can soon pass the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 on the Senate floor in order to get the bill reconciled with the House and on the President’s desk to be signed into law,” he said.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of a powerful food and agriculture appropriations subcommittee, reacted similarly.

“The findings in this report are unacceptable and should serve as an urgent reminder of the glaring weaknesses in our food safety system. The FDA should be inspecting all of the facilities it is responsible for–with no exceptions. Congress needs to act quickly to pass stronger food safety legislation this year, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to better protect American consumers.”

The full report is available here: http://bit.ly/9y7lN3 (pdf)

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    How on earth does a report that clearly shows deteriorating performance by the FDA, including the failure to use its existing powers to enforce existing regulations, a good reason for giving the FDA more power? Only in Washington or a similar political environment where bureaucrats are not held accountable for their poor performance would someone get away with that kind of logic.
    Shame on Sen. Harkin, Rep. DeLauro and Michael Taylor for dissembling the actual findings of the OIG which were:
    1) Increase the frequency of food facility inspections, with particular emphasis on high-risk facilities.
    2) Provide additional guidance about when it is appropriate to lower OAI classifications.
    3) Take appropriate actions against facilities with OAI classifications, particularly those that have histories of violations.
    4) Ensure that violations are corrected for all facilities that receive OAI classifications.
    5) Consider seeking statutory authority to impose civil penalties through administrative proceedings against facilities that do not voluntarily comply with statutory and regulatory requirements.
    6) Seek statutory authority to allow FDA access to facilities’ records during the inspection process.
    The OIG puts its recommendations in order of importance and the first 4 involve its NOT doing its clearly assigned job! Numbers 5 & 6 aren’t 2% of S 510 and everyone on both sides of this issue supports them. So, Sen. Harkin, pass what we all agree on and hold off on Sec. 103 Hazard Analysis & Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC food safety plans) and Sec. 105 Standards for Produce Safety while we work out the kinks.
    Besides, the FDA is already in rulemaking for everything called for in Sec. 105 USING ITS EXISTING AUTHORITY. Let’s see what the FDA comes up with before we impose it on ALL fruits and vegetables for EVERY grower in the US. Mind you those “Standard for Produce Safety” won’t be mandatory for food imported from other countries thus giving foreign grows a pricing advantage over us, domestic growers.
    Tell me does that mean it is OK for people to get sick as a result of imported food and we just don’t want them to get sick from food grown in the US?

  • Harry Hamil

    How on earth does a report that clearly shows deteriorating performance by the FDA, including the failure to use its existing powers to enforce existing regulations, a good reason for giving the FDA more power? Only in Washington or a similar political environment where bureaucrats are not held accountable for their poor performance would someone get away with that kind of logic.
    Shame on Sen. Harkin, Rep. DeLauro and Michael Taylor for dissembling the actual findings of the OIG which were:
    1) Increase the frequency of food facility inspections, with particular emphasis on high-risk facilities.
    2) Provide additional guidance about when it is appropriate to lower OAI classifications.
    3) Take appropriate actions against facilities with OAI classifications, particularly those that have histories of violations.
    4) Ensure that violations are corrected for all facilities that receive OAI classifications.
    5) Consider seeking statutory authority to impose civil penalties through administrative proceedings against facilities that do not voluntarily comply with statutory and regulatory requirements.
    6) Seek statutory authority to allow FDA access to facilities’ records during the inspection process.
    The OIG puts its recommendations in order of importance and the first 4 involve its NOT doing its clearly assigned job! Numbers 5 & 6 aren’t 2% of S 510 and everyone on both sides of this issue supports them. So, Sen. Harkin, pass what we all agree on and hold off on Sec. 103 Hazard Analysis & Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC food safety plans) and Sec. 105 Standards for Produce Safety while we work out the kinks.
    Besides, the FDA is already in rulemaking for everything called for in Sec. 105 USING ITS EXISTING AUTHORITY. Let’s see what the FDA comes up with before we impose it on ALL fruits and vegetables for EVERY grower in the US. Mind you those “Standard for Produce Safety” won’t be mandatory for food imported from other countries thus giving foreign grows a pricing advantage over us, domestic growers.
    Tell me does that mean it is OK for people to get sick as a result of imported food and we just don’t want them to get sick from food grown in the US?

  • Ann Quinn, consumer

    This isn’t new news. See: http://consumerist.com/2007/12/fda-is-so-underfunded-it-cant-protect-consumers.html
    If FDA could recall products it is able to inspect on its
    own authority, maybe some of the millions of pounds of recalled produce would never get into the marketplace.
    That’s why FDA needs more power.
    New news would actually be Congress and the government doing
    something that would enable FDA to function better on
    domestic and imported food. We don’t need to sit around
    and wait another 50 years to figure out what to do. The
    non-self-monitoring food industry would just love that.
    S.510 is a start.

  • Gareth

    What kind of person sees a report that says “this agency is underpowered and underfunded and cannot perform adequate oversight” and says “Well OBVIOUSLY the solution is to get rid of that agency and its oversight!”
    Well, a couple of types of people might come to that conclusion. One type would be a fool–the other would be someone with a corporate interest in eliminating oversight of the industry. How about it, Hamil?