Report says public health is in danger due to inefficient investigation processes.
Investigators for Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson at the Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the agency’s approach to food safety was putting consumers “at risk of illness or death,” according to an article in the Washington Post.
The investigators released their report on Thursday, and cited a case of salmonella-contaminated peanut butter that poisoned 14 people in which the FDA did not force a recall until 165 days after confirming the contamination.
The report also said the agency took 81 days to issue a recall on cheese products from a Virginia company after receiving reports of eight people who became ill and one baby died after eating bacteria in the foods.
The investigators blamed nonexistent or loose policies for deciding how and when to make a recall when consumers are falling ill as the main issue. It also pointed out the agency received new authority to force companies to recall their products back in 2011, rather than asking the companies to voluntarily recall the tainted foods.
The report warns that despite new technologies available to identify contaminants more rapidly, the FDA is endangering the public by its lengthy investigation process.
“FDA did not have an efficient and effective food recall initiation process that helps insure the safety of the Nation’s food supply,” said the report. “FDA’s policies and procedures did not instruct its recall staff to prescribe to the firms a time and a manner in which to initiate the voluntary recall.”
Deputy Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, of the FDA, said the cases cited by the investigators were “outliers” and a “very selective example” of recalls that were not processed as quickly as the might have been, reports the Associated Press. He continued to say the agency has added a more rigorous review process for those types of recalls that were moving slowly.
The report called for “immediate attention” to the matter.