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FDA food checks found lacking
An estimated 76 millions Americans get sick each year from food-borne illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, more than 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 people die.
Mr. Hubbard said it would be fair to say that a significant portion of food-borne diseases can be tied to imports, “but to try to then burrow down to the next level, which is, show me, give me a number, I think is really hard.”
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, yesterday introduced legislation that would generate revenue for the FDA’s import inspection program by charging fees to companies and countries sending food to the U.S.
“One of the biggest obstacles FDA faces in the struggle to ensure food safety is the lack of funding they need to get the job done right,” he said. “While the volume of imports has nearly doubled over the last three years, the number of FDA inspectors has been steadily decreasing. … The system needs to be fixed immediately.”
FDA critics say the rate of food inspections is too low and that the inspection program is badly focused.
They also say FDA inspectors make their initial screening decisions only on the basis of imports’ invoice data, which is limited to the seller, a description of the goods and identification of the buyer.
Recall information, laboratory results, facility inspection histories and publicly available information related to possibly adulterated products from specific regions is not used to make decisions on which shipments to inspect, said consultant Carl Nielsen, a former director of the FDA’s Division of Import Operations who also worked for the agency from the Carter through George W. Bush administrations — although it would be used in a system that the FDA is testing.
“Virtually none of it is used in the entry screening process,” according to Mr. England, who worked for the agency during the Ronald Reagan through the George W. Bush administrations and is now a lawyer in the Washington offices of Jones Walker. He founded the consulting organization FDAImports.com with Mr. Nielsen.
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