Wednesday, May 16, 2007

FDA Had Proposed Reform, But HHS Rejected It

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.

BGS

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» FDA scandal! Or is it? from PointOfLaw Forum
A front-page story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal by Jane Zhang (via Stier) expresses one-sided dismay that HHS blocked an FDA safety effort on E. coli contamination in produce. "Among other things, the FDA outlined a three-year effort that would... [Read More]

Tracked on May 17, 2007 1:41:48 PM

Comments

"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."

There are 356 cases of produce-borne E. coli a year. They wanted to spend $76 million to prevent about 500 cases of E. coli? I think taxpayers would rather have $140,000 than one less case of E. coli.

The interesting quote is this one:
"Major players in the fresh-produce industry, hurt by sinking sales after the recent outbreaks, support mandatory steps to prevent accidental contamination."

An interesting case of a collective-action problem exacerbated by government regulation. No one wants to be the first-mover only to learn that the government is going to require a completely different safety scheme that will require a second set of expenditures.

Posted by: Ted | May 17, 2007 1:35:26 PM

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