New Investigation Finds FDA’s Food Safety Division Is ‘Broken’

This week Politico PubliziertThe ResultsAn in-depth investigation over a period of months into the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation on our nation’s food supply. What were the results? It “fails to fulfill American consumers’ food safety expectations and nutrition needs.” 

It Politico investigation, which focuses chiefly on food safety, nutrition, and structural issues within FDA, includes interviews with dozens of current and former senior FDA officials, industry representatives, members of Congress, and trade groups—all of them familiar with the inner workings of the FDA. Interviewees PoliticoThe investigation described the agency’s food safety regulation invariably “ridiculous”, “impossible,” broken, “byzantine,” and “a joke.” It is noted that many supporters of the agency are “questioning” whether it makes the most out of its $1 billion food budget. This article also points out that despite the fact that around two thirds of this budget goes for food safety inspections and that the number of inspections each year have been decreasing, despite having more resources. Such complaints about the FDA—that the agency consistently does less with more—have been at the heart of my own criticisms of the agency over the years.

It Politico piece opens by discussing the FDA’s inept and ham-handed response to an extensive outbreak of foodborne illness—caused by tainted spinach—that sickened people in 10 U.S. states last year.

This was not supposed to happen,” continues the investigation. “It’s been more than 11 years since Congress passed a sweeping food safety law designed to prevent this type of health risk…. Despite Congress increasing FDA funding in the last decade, deadly outbreaks continue to occur and the FDA takes too much time to respond.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was adopted by Congress in 2011. There are much-ballyhooedIn 2012, law I explained it in a law review articleIt takes a historical, critical look at food safety regulations. The agency was created to have “more power to crackdown on food safety scofflaws” and to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses in the country.

FSMA supporters—who included an unholy alliance of large, rent-seeking food companies and misguided public health activists—claimed the law would be a success. However, the outcomes of the PoliticoAccording to investigations, FSMA advocates may have sold Americans a bill-of-goods. As an example, the investigation notes (and I) DetailFoodborne diseases rates increased last year, even though FSMA has been in place since then.

Surprised? Are you surprised? Even if FSMA had been implemented to perfection—an impossibility for any law—it was destined to be an expensive scheme that would fail to improve food safety outcomes. Because the FDA has own, best-case dataThe maximum effect of FSMA on foodborne illnesses would be Best case scenario, minimal.

New PoliticoInvestigation was written by the veteran senior food- and agriculture reporter of the newspaper Helena Bottemiller EvichFor more than 10 years, his reporting has been focused on FDA and USDA. While many of these issues have been reported extensively, its breadth and depth as well as the sheer intricacy of the revealed problems are what makes it timely, significant, and so damning.

Bottemiller Evich, Bottemiller Evich said to me this week via email that “It’s kinda a strange tale because almost everything in it is surprising or new to those working in the food industry. But this level government dysfunction is both shocking and surprising to anyone outside of the food world.” “It’s unusual to have such broad consensus on something—consumer advocates, the food industry, government officials all broadly agree that FDA’s food division is not working. This is a situation that’s broken and hidden from plain view.

Bottemiller Evich has sparked a variety of responses. There are many commentators. characterizedInvestigators described the incident as “horrifying” classic exampleOf Public Choice Theory. Some members of Congress used this investigation to make a call to the FDA AnswerIts shortcomings. (Was this the same group of elected officials for many decades?

This is one of the most interesting answers to the PoliticoMichael Taylor was a former top FDA official who wrote the piece. op-edIt was noted that the “Great picture, yet it is damningThe investigation shows. He demanded that the FDA be dismantled and its food safety oversight authority given to one food safety agency. That’s a plan that many—Me included (though with plenty of caveats)—think could yield real results.

We have reached a place where almost everyone agrees that the FDA is failing to meet its obligations and fulfill its mission. However, there is still disagreement about the solution. The investigation shows that there is no problem with the FDA not meeting consumers’ expectations and doing enough. Instead, the blame lies with politicians, bureaucrats and advocates, who convinced Americans that stricter FDA regulations and larger FDA budgets will increase safety and nutritional quality. It has proven that it cannot do great things. It could succeed in the little stuff by cutting its budget and narrowing it mission.