Remember the Washington Post’s analysis of FDA Refusal Reports? The New York Times double-checked the Post’s work and found that China isn’t the only country exporting filthy salmonella-infested goods. Exports from India, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic have all been stopped at the U.S. border for failing to meet basic sanitary requirements.
Salmonella was the top reason that food was rejected from India, and it was found in products like black pepper, coriander powder and shrimp. “Filthy” was the primary reason food was stopped from Mexico, and the rejections included lollipops, crabmeat and dried chili.
We are not surprised. Manufacturers everywhere feel the same economic pressures to cut corners and boost profits. It’s globalization, man. More of a surprise and a disappointment is the FDA’s refusal to let the press view refusal reports from before 2006; the agency will not release the documents public unless the press files a formal Freedom of Information request.
The FDA knows food safety is a major issue, and even has a solution that they have no plans to implement.
An F.D.A. plan to revamp the way it inspects imports, called the Import Strategic Plan, was completed in 2003, but shelved because of budgetary constraints, several former F.D.A. officials said. The plan would have focused more on finding potential risks in the food supply using vast quantities of information — from inspectors and manufacturers to foreign governments and consumers — to aim at problem imports.
“It basically got deep-sixed,” said William Hubbard, a former F.D.A. associate commissioner who resigned in 2005 and is now a part of a coalition that is advocating for more financing for the agency. “There was no capacity to cover as imports went up,” he said.
Noting that the number of import shipments has vastly increased in the last 15 years, he said: “That’s a huge, huge increase and they’ve lost people. These guys are going to war without enough troops. They don’t even have guns.”
When former FDA associate commissioners start comparing the battle to make our food safe to the war in Iraq, it’s time to start a vegetable garden.