Another produce safety alert. This time bagged salad from Springfield OH, was found to be contaminated with E.coli O5 1H7.
Is the FDA failing us? Or is it just a case of the fact that the FDA is chronically underfunded and so cannot do its job(s) properly. FDA funding was raised as an issue raised at the Annual IFT meeting at a session on Future trends in food technology. Dr Peter Barton Hutt, who has a very impressive CV, was discussing the fact that the fact that it has been given more and more responsibility over the last twenty years, FDA’s funding in real terms has decreased.
A year ago there was a campaign to give the FDA more funding and to make it stronger. However, the emphasis was on improving the rate of drug approval with little mention of the role the FDA plays in food safety. A recent editorial at Toledoblade points out that the USDA gets more money for meat safety than the FDA gets for the safety of all other food ingredients except seafood.
Is this post in defense of the FDA? You betcha! The FDA is given the blame for many issues from all directions. Consumers attack it for being too supportive of the industry position and its different industry groups claim that it does not act fast enough on drug safety and the cost is too high. For example, earlier this year it had to defend its position on improving dietary supplement purity to both industry groups and consumer groups.
What are FDA’s different roles? Just it’s name tells you that it carries out regulations for food and drugs. It also is responsible for cosmetics, medical devices, animal feed & health, vaccines & other biologics, and radiation devices, which includes cellphones and microwave ovens. For all this it has an annual budget of ~$2 billion.
The many responsibilities and the underfunding of the FDA are more than a bit scary. What are we putting into ourselves everyday? Food, and for some people drugs as well. Food contamination has an enormous impact and can sicken thousands or more when the incidence comes in packages foods with a wide distribution. There ought to be more funding! I know I had some packaged greens in my fridge last week and even though they weren’t the brand or type recalled, and I don’t think I’m in a state where the recall happened, they still got thrown out. I just could NOT bring myself to eat them – made me feel a little ill thinking about it.
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