Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Article in the Wall Street Journal -- FDA Stymied In Push to Boost Safety of Produce: Amid Rise in Outbreaks Of Illness, Agency Urged New Rules, Monitoring, by Jane Zhang. Here's an excerpt:
The Food and Drug Administration, under fire for a string of illnesses caused by contaminated vegetables, earlier this year came up with an ambitious, industry-endorsed plan calling for tough new regulations on the handling of fresh produce.
But the plan went nowhere after it got a cold reception from FDA's parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services. And even today, amid continuing concern about the safety of the nation's food supply, efforts to address the problem remain in limbo.
People close to the FDA say HHS officials led by acting Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan rejected the FDA plan, which was presented in February at HHS headquarters. At the meeting, the FDA warned that its current approach to protecting the safety of fruits and vegetables, which relies on the industry following voluntary guidelines, was failing to stop an increase in foodborne illnesses, according to people familiar with the matter. Those in attendance included Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Among other things, the FDA outlined a three-year effort that would pump $76 million into its coffers to monitor produce safety and impose stringent rules on growers and processors to prevent contamination. Such a campaign could cut produce-related outbreaks of illness in half, the FDA officials said.