FDA needs overhaul: report

The
US Food and Drug Administration is not equipped to handle problems with food
supplies and is in need of a major revamping, a government panel of experts has
reported.

The
FDA needs to squarely focus its efforts on identifying and addressing high-risk
areas and on preventing food-borne illness in the first place, stated the
report, issued Tuesday by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research
Council at the request of US Congress.

The
report recommended giving the FDA authority to issue mandatory recall of food
products and to delegate responsibility for inspections to states, which
already handle about 60 per cent of this task.

“The
agency’s approach now is too reactive and lacks a systematic focus on
prevention,” Dr. Robert Wallace, chairman of the committee that prepared the
report and professor of epidemiology and internal medicine at the University of
Iowa College of Public Health, said at a Tuesday news conference. “The time has
come to modernise the FDA’s food safety programme focusing on the development
of an integrated, risk-based system.”

FDA
commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg responded to the report, which the FDA
sponsored, by saying. “Through the President’s Food Safety Working Group, which
includes all agencies involved in food safety, we already are making
significant progress to ensure government agencies are working seamlessly to
protect the American public. At FDA, we are engaged in the long-term, strategic
transformation of our Foods Program, including appointing a Deputy Commissioner
for Foods to oversee the newly created Office of Foods.”

A
leading consumer group applauded the report.

“A
distinguished panel of experts has concluded that FDA has neither the resources
nor the powers it needs to keep our food safe,” Jean Halloran, director of food
policy initiatives at Consumers Union, said. “The report recommends that
Congress act to give FDA the power to order recalls of tainted food, which
amazingly, it still lacks.

“The
report further urges that Congress require all food processors to register with
the FDA, to act proactively to prevent food-borne illness, and tell the FDA
when they discover adulterated products. FDA needs all these powers as well as
a mandate to inspect high-risk processors at least annually. While the House
passed a bill last July that would give FDA much of what it needs, the reform
legislation remains stalled in the Senate. The time is now for Congress to
act.”

The
FDA, which is supposed to oversee the safety of about 80 per cent of the US
food supply, has been besieged by a spate of recent outbreaks of food-borne
illnesses. These have led to recalls of salmonella-tainted salad dressings,
snacks, soup mixes, pistachios and peanuts, among other food items.

Some
of the recalled products have been available in Cayman, which imports much of
its food from the US.

NO COMMENTS