http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-detailed-world-map-image29681182The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to do more to ensure that its foreign offices are keeping food imported to the U.S. safe, says a report released Friday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In 2010, GAO studied FDA’s foreign offices and found that they engaged in a variety of activities relating to food safety but faced challenges due to an increasing workload and other factors. In this followup to the 2010 report, GAO found that the agency is not keeping pace with the number of foreign inspections mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Under the act, FDA was required to inspect 600 foreign food facilities in the first year following its enactment and, for each of the next 5 years, inspect at least twice the number of facilities inspected during the previous year. By this estimate, the agency should have inspected 4,800 facilities in 2014, but it only conducted 1,323 inspections this past year. “FDA officials told us that the agency has not met — and is not planning to meet — the FSMA mandate,” GAO’s report stated. “They questioned the usefulness of conducting the number of inspections mandated by FSMA.” But the agency hasn’t conducted an analysis to determine whether the number of inspections in the mandate, or a lower number. is sufficient for ensuring safety, so GAO is recommending that they do so. GAO also continues to recommend that FDA develop performance goals and measures in order to track the foreign offices’ contributions to the safety of imported food. “Since we last reported, FDA has continued to experience recruitment challenges in the foreign offices,” GAO stated. “FDA has taken some steps to address those challenges, but it has not completed a strategic workforce plan.” As of October 2014, 44 percent of FDA’s approved foreign office positions were vacant, and the GAO report noted that a plan would help make sure that the agency recruits and retains staff with the necessary experience and skills.

  • Mike_Mychajlonka_PhD

    This article is unfinished. It should tell us what is happening in the interim. Are foods from foreign facilities that should have been inspected but have not been being tested at the border before entry or is such risk assessment just being ignored? FDA has previously touted its new risk-assessment model. How can risk be assessed without sufficient data? What is FDA’s rationale for arguing that the inspection frequency mandated by FSMA is excessive?

    • Oginikwe

      Apparently it’s excessive because they are expected to do something, like actually inspect something somewhere.