July 2, 2022

Senator Murray Wants Answers on Alleged Food Safety Failures

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) wants answers on alleged FDA food safety failures after a report in Politico listed problems with that agency. Senator Murray is Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. A letter was sent to FDA Commissioner Robert M Califf, asking for answers and immediate action.

Senator Murray Wants Answers on Alleged Food Safety Failures

The Politico report was based on more than 50 interviews with experts and former officials and found that the FDA is more focused on regulating and overseeing drugs and other medical products than food. For instance, FDA commissioners rarely have experience with food issues, but are usually medical doctors. The report lists deadly food poisoning outbreaks and the recalls associated with the contaminated foods, starkly outlining how long it can take to issue a recall while people are getting sick. And it points out that the number of food safety inspections performed every year has been decreasing despite the increase in the food budget.

The letter states, in part, “I am deeply concerned about a new report into longstanding, significant delays and dysfunction across food safety efforts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Americans rely on the FDA to ensure the food they are eating and feeding their families is safe. The FDA’s failure over decades to regulate and enforce food safety standards, on issues ranging from bacteria in vegetables to arsenic in baby food, has put the health of Americans at risk. I am calling on you to make these issues a priority and take immediate action to ensure the FDA is doing all it can to fulfill all aspects of its mission to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

Politico’s report focused on the powdered infant formula contamination with Cronobacter, the issue of heavy metals in baby food. and pathogens in produce, such as the many E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce.

The letter continues, “You have the opportunity to address these longstanding issues and reform the way FDA handles these longstanding food safety and nutrition issues. During your confirmation hearing, you committed to me you would ‘hit the ground running’ and prioritize consumer and patient protection issues. I am calling on you to fulfill that promise and take immediate action to ensure the FDA’s food safety efforts are robust, timely, and effective in keeping the American people healthy and safe.”

The Senator wants information about what steps the agency will take to improve food safety efforts, why regulatory actions mandated in the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA) have been delayed, how many food packaging samples were tested for toxic elements, and how often the agency has conducted inspections in the last ten years.

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