Flickr photo by Massahiro IharaThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isn't doing an adequate job when it comes to keeping our nation's food safe. That's the consensus from a panel of experts who this week called for an overhaul of the agency.
"The agency's approach now is too reactive and lacks a systematic focus on prevention," Dr. Robert Wallace, chairman of the committee that prepared the report, said at a news conference Tuesday. "The time has come to modernize the FDA's food safety program focusing on the development of an integrated, risk-based system."
With all the food recalls we hear about, the news isn't surprising. From fish to peanuts, ground beef to lettuce, we've learned to fear rather than trust our food supply. Each year about 76 million Americans are affected by food-borne illnesses, causing more than 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
While several other agencies, such as the USDA, are involved in food regulation, the FDA is responsible for about 80 percent of it.
The panel recommends several steps be taken, including:
- Improvement of the FDA's inadequate analytical expertise and infrastructure for gathering, managing, and using data by identifying its needs and reviewing its policies for sharing data with other agencies and organizations.
- Exploration by the FDA of alternative methods of food safety regulation, such as delegating food facility inspections to the states.
- The establishment by the federal government of a centralized food safety data center outside of the regulatory agencies to collect information and conduct rapid, sophisticated assessments of food safety risks and appropriate policy interventions.
- Strengthening the FDA's authority by amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to underscore the agency's role in facility registration, preventive controls, risk-based inspection, mandatory recalls, and food import bans.
Do you agree that the FDA should be revamped?