There's A Huge Problem With The Way The FDA Handles Recalls

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) often moves too slowly on food recalls, according to a new government report which suggests that the FDA lets companies take their time in recalling contaminated food.

The report comes from Office of the Inspector General (OIG) auditors. They reviewed 30 cases of food recalls by the FDA between 2012 and 2015 to check the efficiency of America's food recall system.

After reviewing past recalls, the auditors said, "The FDA does not have adequate policies and procedures to ensure that firms take prompt and effective action in initiating voluntary food recalls."

Furthermore, the report stated that "consumers remained at risk of illness or death for several weeks after FDA was aware of a potentially hazardous food in the supply chain."

Among the reviewed cases was a recall of salmonella-contaminated peanut butter that took over five months from the time the agency first identified it as a potential problem and when the company issued a recall.

The OIG also reviewed a case of listeria-contaminated cheese that took almost three months to recall, after a death, several illnesses, and one miscarriage due to infections caused by the contamination.

"We suggest that FDA update its policies and procedures to instruct its recall staff to establish set timeframes for FDA to request that firms voluntarily recall their products and firms to initiate voluntary food recalls," the OIG report said.
The FDA promptly responded to the report, saying in a statement, "We fully agree with the OIG that we must move as expeditiously as possible. We also agree that timeframes should be set, but they must be done on an individual basis rather than by setting arbitrary deadlines."

The FDA said that "complexities surrounding recall events" make setting a single timeline nearly impossible and unhelpful. The FDA added that it's already in the process of trying to strengthen responses to recalls.

The OIG's report was only a preliminary one. The general public, and the FDA, can expect a full audit in the near future.

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