GAO Pushes For Food Safety Details | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: June 19, 2008

GAO Pushes For Food Safety Details

Report questions FDA's ability to protect U.S. food supply
Department: Government & Policy

FDA has provided inadequate details on the resources needed to implement its Food Protection Plan and has not specified timelines for implementing the plan's strategies, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on June 12.

FDA first released its food safety plan in November 2007. "We continue to have concerns about FDA's lack of specificity on the necessary resources and strategies to fully implement the plan," GAO's Lisa Shames, director of natural resources and environment, testified at a June 12 hearing before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce.

The report (GAO-08-909T) concludes that a risk-based approach to safety inspections is reasonable and effective in light of FDA's scarce resources. GAO estimates that it would cost about $524 million for one-time inspections of each of the roughly 65,500 U.S. food companies regulated by FDA and about $3.16 billion to inspect all registered foreign facilities.

FDA is expected to spend a total of about $90 million over fiscal years 2008 and 2009 to implement the Food Protection Plan.

Since 2004, GAO has made several recommendations to help FDA better leverage its resources and improve its monitoring and enforcement processes. According to the GAO report, FDA has implemented only a few. In addition, the report notes, the agency has fallen behind schedule in keeping the public informed of its progress on implementing the Food Protection Plan.

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