The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs sent inspectors to five of the nine Ruby Tuesdays restaurants in Massachusetts after a customer complaint. Today they released an announcement that in all five locations, they found steaks that were smaller than their labeled size. The restaurant’s supplier, Colorado Premium Foods, was fined $700 dollars. [More]
President Obama this week declared war on the Chinese Poison Train, announcing that the FDA will receive $1 billion in new funds for modern testing labs and additional food safety inspectors. Inspecting less than 5% of our food processing plants is apparently a “hazard to public health, and “it is unacceptable.” So what’s really behind the new policy shift? No, it’s not those melamine murders or salmonella outbreaks. It’s seven-year-old first daughter Sasha Obama!
A CBS investigation has revealed that parking tickets stemming from 85% of the parking meters in Philadelphia are invalid. Pennsylvania law requires inspectors to certify each parking meter for accuracy once every three years, but the single inspector working for Philly’s Licenses and Inspections Department, the city agency in change of certification, has visited less than 15% of all parking meters—but he has found the time to certify some meters 8 times while others go completely unchecked. As a result, thousands of parking tickets are invalid under state law.
Martin Bennett is a 69-year-old former inspector for the Consumer Product Safety Commission who retired over six years ago.
The Humane Society of America has sued the USDA in an attempt to close a loophole that allows downer cows who aren’t otherwise ill into the food supply. They claim the loophole increases the risk of introducing mad cow disease to humans, and leads to abuse against the cattle—like with, oh, say, a forklift. [Wall Street Journal]
BusinessWeek has an article that shines some light on a conflict of interest between the airlines and the FAA safety inspectors. It’s the inspector’s job to make sure the airlines are operating safely—but inspectors who blow the whistle may face pressure from the airlines and retaliation from the FAA’s upper management
The inspectors are the on-the-ground cops who ensure that engines fire up properly, that the wing flaps function, and that all of the other complex machinery in an aircraft is in good working order. They have broad discretion to halt and delay flights–power that often rankles the thinly stretched, financially strapped carriers. When an inspector launches a formal investigation into an apparent safety violation at a passenger airline, something that happened more than 200 times last year, it often triggers costly repairs. And when the bill exceeds $50,000, the FAA must issue a press release alerting the world to the problem.
Congress has questions about an internal FDA memo calling for the sacking of 196 food safety analysts. The memo, titled “New Organization Staffing,” was released to the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of an ongoing investigation into the contamination of spinach, peanut butter, and other assorted items. The FDA currently inspects less than 1% of regulated imports. Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Bart Stupak (D-MI) sent a letter to the FDA expressing their displeasure with the cuts.
- “This number represents 37 percent of the total number of lab analysts currently working in the Office of Regulatory Affairs laboratories,” the letter states. “This slashing of analysts comes after an already 24 percent reduction in lab analysts between 2003 and 2007. To say the least, these numbers are deeply disturbing.”
The analyst cuts are part of a larger FDA plan to close 7 of the 13 labs that test samples from inspections. The FDA is willing to reconsider its position, but it first wants Congress to pony-up more cash. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER