US relies on states for food safety inspections
Source of Article: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gD1-Tezv6lJOz9hwR0IVu6zTW7xwD968QAQ80
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government has increasingly relied on food-safety inspections performed by states, where budgets for inspections in many cases have remained stagnant and where overburdened officials are trained less than their federal counterparts and perform skimpier reviews, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The thoroughness of inspections performed by states has emerged as a key
issue in the investigation of the national salmonella outbreak traced to a
peanut processing plant in Blakely,
The House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, which is to
hold a hearing Wednesday on food safety, scheduled a meeting Tuesday to issue
a subpoena for Peanut Corp. of
State investigators performed more than half the Food and Drug Administration's food inspections in 2007, according to an AP analysis of FDA data. That represents a dramatic rise from a decade ago, when FDA investigators performed three out of four of the federal government's inspections. The Agriculture Department is responsible for meat and dairy safety.
Increased inspection responsibilities have not been accompanied by big spending increases in many states responsible for the bulk of the nation's food production.
The FDA covers some costs for states to perform inspections. But in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, each state's own food safety spending increased only slightly since 2003, less than the rate of inflation; in California and Massachusetts, just barely more than inflation; and in New Jersey, spending has remained about the same. Those are among states with the largest numbers of food-processing plants.
"It clearly is a passing the buck kind of thing and somebody is
dropping the buck along the way," said
"To say that food safety in this country is a patchwork system is
giving it too much credit," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of
the Agriculture Committee. "Food safety in
The FDA never followed up on the Georgia inspections because the problems discovered by the state "were considered to be somewhat resolved," Michael Chappell, head of the FDA's enforcement division, said during a congressional hearing last week.
The FDA relied on
"Many of these state contract inspections are much briefer, much less intensive inspections than the FDA does," said former FDA deputy commissioner Michael Taylor, who supports contracting to the states.
The number of federal field food inspectors dropped by more than 400 between 2003 and 2007, according to the FDA's budget. But the number of businesses requiring oversight increased by 7,200 between 2003 and 2007, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
"What's happened is the agency can do fewer and fewer (inspections) itself, so if it's going to do anything it has to use the states," said Bill Hubbard, a former associate FDA commissioner who now lobbies for increases in FDA funding. "The states can do it much more cheaply, but the states may not do as it thoroughly."
Some states, such as
"We are not inspecting 100 percent of the firms at 100 percent of the desired times," she said.
In the wake of the
Associated Press writer Jim Drinkard contributed to this report.
Copyright (C) All rights reserved under FoodHACCP.com
If you have any comments, please send your