The not-for-profit US consumer advocacy group, Consumers Union (CU), claims that while the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new report on its current food safety activities shows some progress, it is not enough to adequately protect the American food supply.
“The FDA needs a complete overhaul, including but not limited to vastly increased funding, far greater staff and much more frequent inspections of both domestic and foreign food processors.”
It said that the FDA must also become more proactive and precautionary, rather than reactive. “The recent findings of melamine and cyanuric acid in [US} infant formula – revealed to the public not by the FDA but by a Freedom of Information Act request by reporters – demonstrates the agency’s failure to exercise adequate precaution,” said the CU.
The consumers group said that the FDA should immediately ask companies to recall the contaminated batches of formula.
However, the FDA said the report is only focused on accomplishments achieved in the first year of the Food Protection Plan.
According to the agency, the Plan was developed to address both unintentional and deliberate contamination of the nation's food supply and takes into consideration societal and demographic changes, the globalisation of the food supply, new threats, and communication issues.
“These factors require a new approach to food protection than what we have historically followed,” said a spokesperson for the FDA.
The agency said in terms of preventing foodborne disease it is in the process of opening five offices around the world, to be staffed with its own inspectors, in China, India, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
The FDA reported that it participated in meetings in China to discuss food-safety issues in both countries and to share suggestions on ways to address global food safety, and, in addition, the agency said it is hiring an international notification coordinator to serve as a liaison between the FDA and its foreign counterparts.
According to the food safety regulator, it has also approved the irradiation of iceberg lettuce and spinach to control toxins such as E. coli, as well as developing tests to detect contaminants such as melamine and cyanuric acid.
In providing feedback on its intervention approaches, the FDA said that it inspected 5,930 high-risk food establishments in the past year, and has also developed a rapid detection test for E. coli and salmonella in food that is now being used in poultry-processing plants.
The FDA said its accomplishments in regard to its response to foodborne outbreaks include working with industry and the public to find better ways of tracing fresh produce in the food-supply chain, and reaching agreements with six states to create a rapid response team for food and food-borne illnesses.
Asked whether the agency would be requesting increased budgetary funding from the new administration, the spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com that it was clear the agency was going to require further new resources to be able to achieve the goals laid out in its Plan.
And Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Andrew von Eschenbach, said that the agency is continuing to work with members of Congress to change laws to help the FDA better protect the food supply.