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IOM Report Offers Useful Guidance for FDA, With One Major Exception

Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal

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Today’s report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council offers several strong recommendations for improving food safety under the Food and Drug Administration, and serves as yet another call to Congress to pass critical food safety reform legislation. Many of the recommendations made in the report are contained in the food safety legislation pending in the Senate.

Among the improvements IOM suggests are the creation of a centralized risk-based analysis and data management center, and the development of a specialized food safety inspection workforce. The data center envisioned by IOM, which resembles that of the European Food Safety Authority, could be a useful model for FDA. IOM’s recognition of the need for a specialized food safety inspection workforce is a welcome suggestion, recognizing that inspectors cannot be cross-trained adequately in food safety, drugs, and medical devices.

Unfortunately, the report also recommends that FDA pursue delegating additional responsibility for food inspections to the states—an experiment destined to increase the number of food safety failures we have already experienced. One need only look to the Peanut Corporation of America for evidence that states are ill-equipped to provide the level of inspection required. States and local governments have responsibility for food safety inspections of all restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and day care centers—responsibilities that are already taxing state governments. Instead of tasking overburdened and underfunded agencies with additional responsibilities, FDA should create a more efficient federal inspection force, including by utilizing other federal agencies.

The IOM also recommends moving toward a single unified food safety agency, a plan championed by CSPI and used with success by other countries. 

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).