Law For Food: The law affects what you eat. What you buy to eat affects the law.

FDA Halts Plans to Close Inspection Lab
2 August 2007, 4:45 pm
Filed under: FDA, Food Safety, Inspections

The FDA has suspended plans to close the Alameida laboratory. You know, the one which provided valuable backup services around the clock and on weekends in order to help California health officials trace last year’s e. coli spinach outbreak. Money quote:

“I think the FDA finally realized that it doesn’t make sense to close half your labs when you’re struggling to deal with an array of food-safety problems, like they are right now,” said Chris Waldrop, food-safety director for the Consumer Federation of America.

The closure, one of a number of closures planned, oddly enough, in response to widespread public and increasing congressional concern about the safety of the U.S. food supply, is according to FDA officials part of a larger reorganization plan, and was supposed to free up funds to pay for more staff and equipment at the remaining labs. However, as Rep. Stupak (D-Mich) of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee said yesterday:

“Not once, in the 70,000 pages of documents that our subcommittee received from the FDA, does the FDA justify why this reorganization plan makes sense from either a safety or a cost standpoint,”

Stay tuned. I suspect a major shakeup in the agency within the next six to eight months.

Update: Commissioner Eschenbach has said that he is likely to increase the number of health inspectors working for the FDA, presumably so that the agency can inspect more than 1% of the U.S. food supply. I love how managers use straw men to buy themselves time:

“We have to increase the inspector field force,” said von Eschenbach, “but I’d like to do that by not simply saying we have to have more inspectors. I’d like to do it from the point of view that we are doing so strategically. What kind of inspectors, where do we need them, what kinds of tools do we need to provide for them.”

Really. Apparently it’s not just a matter of hiring people. Turns out we actually need them in particular places, and doing particular jobs. We’re paying this guy for these insights?


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