FDA too slow to order food recalls, U.S.
Send a link to a friend
[June 10, 2016]
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Food and Drug
Administration is too slow to order companies to recall tainted foods,
leaving people at risk of illness and death, a government watchdog said
in a review of the agency's food safety program.
The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector
General reviewed 30 recalls that occurred between 2012 and 2015,
including two in which companies did not recall all affected items
until 165 days and 81 days after the FDA became aware of tainted
foods. The watchdog issued its report on Wednesday.
"FDA does not have adequate policies and procedures to ensure that
firms take prompt and effective action in initiating voluntary food
recalls," the report said. "As a result, consumers remained at risk
of illness or death for several weeks after FDA was aware of a
potentially hazardous food in the supply chain."
The watchdog urged the FDA to address the problem immediately.
In a blog post, FDA food safety officials Stephen Ostroff and Howard
Sklamberg called the report's findings "unacceptable" and said the
agency is "totally committed" to food safety.
Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut in a statement said it
was "mind-boggling" that the FDA does not have policies or
procedures to ensure swift voluntary food recalls.
DeLauro, who oversees drug and food safety in her position on the
House of Representatives subcommittee responsible for the FDA,
pointed to a salmonella outbreak last year in cucumbers, which
sickened nearly 900 people, hospitalized 191 and killed six. The
outbreak began in July, but it took until September before producers
started recalling product.
"Delays like this one - and others found in the report - are
completely unacceptable and leave American consumers at risk for
illness and death," DeLauro said.
Ostroff and Sklamberg said the FDA has a plan underway to strengthen
compliance and enforcement policies, including both voluntary and
[to top of second column]
But they said recalls must be based on scientific evidence borne out
of an outbreak investigation. And while timeframes for recalls need
to be set, "they must be done on an individual basis rather than by
setting arbitrary deadlines."
To speed the FDA's response, Ostroff and Sklamberg said the agency
has established a team of experts from different scientific
disciplines to oversee outbreak investigations. They also cited
FDA's adoption in 2014 of the use of whole genome sequencing, a more
precise technology for determining the genetic fingerprint of
In addition, provisions in the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act
that require companies to minimize food safety risks, and require
companies to have a recall plan, will begin to take effect this
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Leslie Adler)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.