By Andrea Ford Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1845618,00.html
Food Safety: Improvements Needed in FDA Oversight of Fresh
Amid increasing reports of food-borne illness, the GAO is calling out the Food and Drug Administration for failing in its duty to ensure the safety of the nation's food, particularly its fresh fruits and vegetables. Thousands of people have been sickened; the produce industry has lost millions of dollars. After studying farms and facilities and reviewing the FDA's practices for preventing contamination, the GAO makes an urgent, if predictable recommendation: the FDA's authority must be expanded and its strategy updated, or Americans' health will continued to be threatened by the food they eat.
On why fresh produce oversight matters more than ever:
"[T]he consumption of fresh produce
has increased as both health experts and the
2. On the FDA's sluggish research and regulatory updates: "FDA last set its research priorities 8 years ago and has not systematically worked with others to supplement its research agenda, including research relating to fresh produce. FDA's 1998 good agricultural practices guidance has not been updated, and its current good manufacturing practice regulations for food, which includes fresh-cut produce operations, was last revised in 1986."
3. On the FDA's staffing shortfall: "The agency's food-related funding has not kept pace with inflation, with FDA losing 800 scientists, inspectors, and other critical food safety staff since fiscal year 2004."
Originally requested by
Senators Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer after the great bagged-spinach E. Coli fiasco of 2006, the report arrives on the heels of a
salmonella outbreak earlier this year, linked to tomatoes and peppers, which
sickened at least 1,440 people and was
These reminders of what's at stake
make the facts all the more troubling. The FDA devotes only three percent of
its food safety spending each year to fresh produce, which is especially
important because it is often consumed uncooked. It examines less than one
percent of produce imported into the
The FDA is responsible
for ensuring the safety of 80% of the
The Verdict: Skim
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