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

Forecast calls for increased inspections
20 September 2007, 2:22 pm
Filed under: FDA, Food Safety, Inspections, Production, Regulation

Accidental Hedonist notes from the headlines that Dole is recalling about 800 cases of produce due to a warning issued by the Canadian government that random testing had come back positive for E.Coli O157:H7. This is interesting in part because Eye on FDA links to a story which notes that

Government regulators never acted on calls for stepped-up inspections of leafy greens after last year’s deadly E. coli spinach outbreak, leaving the safety of America’s salads to a patchwork of largely unenforceable rules and the industry itself[.]

Your author is often in favor of market-driven and private solutions, and is not at all confident that FDA reforms will be driven by food-safety concerns, or that they will be equitably applied to all producers/processors. Having said that, it is clear that companies like Dole haven’t taken the opportunity, after the rash of food-borne illness outbreaks in the past two years, to ensure that the food they sell won’t make you sick and die.


Comment Thread on the Raw Milk Ban
14 September 2007, 2:19 pm
Filed under: FDA, Food Policy, Pasteurization, Raw Milk, Regulation

The Complete Patient has a fine post on the recent recall of raw milk from Organic Pastures which gives some good details. I thought that the comment thread was also worth reading if you want to get up to date on the raw milk debate.

On that raw milk recall, it looks like Organic Pastures may have been selling cream from other raw milk producers alongside or mixed with its own cream. Since so much of the raw milk greymarket relies on trusting that your producer is taking the necessary steps to prevent contamination, this was a terrible move on the part of Organic Pastures.

In some states, it is illegal to sell raw milk, but you can drink it yourself from a cow that you own, which has led to the practice of selling raw milk under “cowshare” programs in which raw milk drinkers will pool their resources and purchase a portion of a cow, and will pay the farmer for pasturing instead of “purchasing” the milk. While this practice seems unnecessarily complicated, I suppose it prevents shenanigans such as what Organic Pastures has done.

The Complete Patient’s ultimate answer to the comment thread linked above is also worth reading.

History of the FDA
3 August 2007, 8:24 am
Filed under: FDA

I found this on the FDA website.  It’s a chronological list of FDA “milestones.”

FDA Retention Bonuses
2 August 2007, 4:56 pm
Filed under: FDA, food politics, Food Safety

According to the Washington Post, FDA officials received $13.6 in “retention bonuses” from public funds. Associate Commissioner Glavin, she of the alleged congressional witness intimidation, has personally received over $170,000 in the past 4.5 years on top of her yearly $159,840 salary. The total amount of bonus disbursements has risen from $7.2 million in 2004. Over this same period, I think it bears repeating, incidence of food-borne illnesses rose to the same levels they had been in 2000.

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?

New Food Inspection Rules – Prelim
1 August 2007, 11:30 am
Filed under: FDA, Food Safety, Regulation

I’m not yet sure what I think about the new food inspection rules, primarily owing to the fact that I haven’t yet looked at them. The message seems to be that the new rules create “uniform” food inspections, but uniformity is useless unless the inspections are rigorous. Indeed it seems to me that more food-borne illness would be likely to be caught by the application of various inspection standards. Particularly where products from a single source are inspected in various locations, I should think that various inspection standards would reveal a fuller picture of food-borne illness risks. But I haven’t looked at the standards yet, so all of this may be moot. More later.

Buried Lede — GMO Food Regulations
1 August 2007, 10:30 am
Filed under: Economics of Eating, FDA, food politics, Food Safety, Regulation

The cross-head and final sentence of this reposted NYTimes story tell an interesting story which is different from the majority of the article. The majority of the article talks about how the FDA is finally getting serious about GMO foods in terms of determining whether and how they are to enter the U.S. food supply. However the cross-head and final sentence seem to indicate that it is the biotech industry which is behind the creation of these standards, apparently as a way of allaying investor’s fears. This is interesting. Compliance with relevant laws and regulations is a fairly persuasive bar to liability, from what I understand, in products liability cases. If the biotech industry is pushing for the creation of regulations it is almost certainly with the intention of shielding themselves from liability by arguing that they are in compliance with the regulations which they almost certainly helped write.