OOIDA, GAO cite similar concerns about FDA food safety plan

| 1/31/2008

Can the U.S. Food and Drug Administration adequately ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply?

After careful analysis of the FDA’s Food Protection Plan, OOIDA and the U.S. Government Accountability Office both agree the answer is no, unless critical changes are made soon.

OOIDA reviewed the plan in early January and called it “seriously flawed” because it did little to address food safety concerns faced by truckers.

OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Specialist Joe Rajkovacz said that although transportation was briefly mentioned in the FDA plan, it did not include any real answers for truckers who are left “holding the bag” in the ongoing food safety debate.

“This document is couched with phrases and words that falsely imply the document is proactive with regard to food safety,” Rajkovacz said. “A careful reading of the FDA’s Food Protection Plan leaves little doubt the agency is still dealing from the same deck of cards. It’s just shuffling them around.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 29, Lisa Shames, Director of Natural Resources and Environment for the GAO, testified before the House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce, about the FDA’s plan.

One of the main points throughout the GAO report is that more “specific information about its (FDA) strategies and the resources needed to implement this plan” are warranted.

One of the critical flaws OOIDA officials saw in the FDA protection plan is that while it addresses the possible need for mandatory recall authority of food products, it recommends mandatory recalls only when voluntary recalls “are not effective.”

“This is just another area where the FDA has allowed the industry to have control over the food supply chain,” Rajkovacz said. “It’s scary to think how many days companies can drag their feet and allow potentially contaminated product to remain out there in the marketplace before FDA invokes their mandatory authority and demands that companies remove their potentially contaminated product from the food supply chain.”

According to the FDA plan, mandatory recalls would be “imposed only if a firm refuses or unduly delays conducting a voluntary recall.” The FDA plan states that there have been situations “in which firms are unwilling to conduct a recall.”

The GAO report also questions the effectiveness of imposing a mandatory recall only after a company refuses to do so.

“Further, the plan does not propose a definition of ‘undue delay’ by a company, another critical element of recall authority given that timing is essential in reacting to outbreaks, and delays can cost lives,” states the GAO report.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer