Today, an advisory panel to the FDA will present its findings developed over the past year. The result is “a scathing review of the state of the FDA” that says it’s “so underfunded and understaffed that it’s putting U.S. consumers at risk in terms of food and drug safety.”
The report describes what it calls a “plethora of inadequacies,” including:
- inadequate inspections of manufacturers, noting that foodmakers, for example, are inspected about once every 10 years.
- A “badly broken” food-import system and food supply “that grows riskier each year.”
- A depleted FDA staff, which is about the same size as it was 15 years ago despite huge growth in agency responsibilities.
- A workforce with a “dearth” of scientists who understand emerging technologies.
- An “obsolete” information-technology system, with handwritten inspectors’ reports and “piles and piles” of paper documents that are in warehouses with no backup, including clinical trial data.
The panel says the problem stems from “chronic underfunding” of the FDA, even though its responsibilities continue to expand—for example, it now regulates 80% of the nation’s food supply, but only receives about a third of our food-safety budget. (The rest goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
“These people were horrified by what they found,” [said William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner]. While the subcommittee was supposed to look ahead to where the FDA needs to be, Hubbard says it came away concluding that “it cannot even do its job now.”
“Report: FDA so underfunded, consumers are put at risk” [USA Today]