Summary Of FDA Food Safety Hearing

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing: “Diminished Capacity: Can the FDA Assure the Safety and Security of the Nation’s Food Supply? – Part 2” was held today. Itchmo liveblogged the hearing (and boy, was it one long hearing — it took about 6 hours) and here are some major points that were brought up in the hearing including many that surprised and shocked us.

From Committee on Energy and Commerce visits to FDA labs and ports:

  • The review of operations of the San Francisco office: They found that it was physically impossible for office to complete even cursory reviews. There are four employees to review 4,000 entries. On average, they do 1 entry every 30 seconds. This is the time in which they decide if the entry is OK or if it needs to be investigated.
  • When a product is “detained”, this means that the delivery is allowed to the importer. The companies then test the shipment using a private lab.
  • These private labs are not accredited or inspected by the FDA. The FDA has no authority to audit or check the reliability of these labs. Many of the FDA employees describe some of these labs as “not good” and “spooky”. These labs use improper methods and produce shoddy work. For many of these labs, money is the bottom line. One private lab owner said that some private labs can guarantee that companies will get negative results.
  • After the company has negative findings in 5 consecutive shipments, then the exporter is removed from the alert. After that, the exporter will be able to ship without any investigation or alert. This system can be abused. For example, with sword fish and tunafish, when the fish are larger and older, they may have a higher toxin level. Companies will send the first five shipments with smaller fish (that usually have little or no toxins), so they will test negative for any toxins. After the import alert is taken off, the company will then start shipping the larger fish that have higher toxin levels.
  • 20% of seafood exports that came into the San Francisco port were found to be disguised as they were importing decomposing fish. Carbon monoxide has been used to hide the decomposition.
  • Many FDA employees that they spoke to believe that voluntary recalls have no real impact. They say that mandatory protocols are necessary. They also say that the industry would prefer mandatory guidelines also.
  • There are FDA 326 ports in the US, and only 91 of those ports have inspectors at those ports. Companies can go to ports where there are no inspectors at (Customs and Border Protection is at the ports) or they can also go to ports that they know the inspectors are not as strict. For example, some companies will bring their shipments to Las Vegas instead of San Francisco because San Francisco is known for their expertise. (USDA only has 10 ports.)
  • The inspectors also believe that the closing of 7 of the 13 FDA labs and the proposed reorganization plan will exacerbate the system.
  • The computer system that FDA inspectors use shows only 20% of the food imports that are being sampled for tests. The other 80% of foods are not being reviewed or tested at all (this did include wheat gluten before).

Testimony from the FDA labs:

  • The employees from FDA labs that are proposed to close spoke about the significance of their labs and how there would be a brain drain in the FDA. They have not been given a reason on why the FDA will be closing down their labs. District offices will also be decreased from 20 to 16. Compliance branches will decrease from 20 to 10.
  • All of the employees testified ranked the FDA as an agency a 5 or lower on a scale from 1 to 10. (1 being the lowest)

Testimony from FDA Commissioner Eschenbach:

  • Eschenbach says that the agency is recognized as the “gold standard” around the world. He says that the FDA recognizes that they need to modernize their facilities, use their current authorities more efficiently and with greater clarity, need to work with other agencies, and he ends in his statement that the FDA will radically change.
  • Eschenbach was continuously asked about the lack of communication from the FDA. Many committee members said that they had asked for documents or responses to questions and had never received it. Eschenbach said that he would look into it and says that the FDA is committed to being responsive.
  • Eschenbach states the reorganization proposal is to not eliminate labs or the workforce. It is to consolidate labs to be more effective and to enhance the maximum impact of the agency.
  • Eschenbach believes that voluntary procedures are working well. He states that in some areas, science is not mature enough to define a regulation that is mandatory all the time.
  • Stupak lays into Eschenbach and asks where the $10 million dollars that Congress gave to the FDA for the food safety program. Stupak says $9.5 million of it was used for bonuses. Eschenbach said that it was taken from the budget and from the specific districts. Stupak states that employees in Eschenbach’s office collected 30% of the top FDA’s cash awards and the Office of Regulatory Affairs only collected 19% cash bonuses but yet they have 35% of FDA’s employees. His office went up by 80% in cash awards, while the Office of Regulatory Affairs only went up by 30%. As imports have increased, the cash award for field employees have gone down while the employees in his office went up. Eschenbach said that he didn’t have the details of the bonuses and said that he would get them that information. Stupak answered by saying “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
  • State Representative Burgess (TX) did bring up the point that he had spoken to a vet about the pet food recalls. Burgess said that he didn’t fully see how severe the problem was before. The vet told him that it was significantly more widespread than it appeared and the recall probably involved brands that were not recalled. Burgess said that it seemed that the pet food problems were more widespread than were reported.

Other food safety note: Safeway sent a letter to Congress saying that the company would stop selling fresh meat treated with carbon monoxide.

14 Responses to “Summary Of FDA Food Safety Hearing”

  1. 5CatMom says:


    These morons get BONUSES?

  2. HomeGrown says:

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

  3. HomeGrown says:


    Sure they do. If it wasn’t for finding a way to screw us out of life, peace of mind and money what would they do with their time?

  4. Katie says:

    Now I’m wondering…ChemNutra originally applied for a license or they were going to locate in Calif(hope someone remembers exactly..)than they opened an office in Las Vegas -

    The Denver lab is the only one able to analyze animal feed and milk protein and they were slated to be closed.

    The importers seem to be very knowledgeable about how to beat the system -

    The only lab able to check for radiation was slated to be closed -

    FDA used money for bonuses! and I still don’t think Eschenbach feels the need to include Congress in what he or Mr Bush and cronies do. He seems to have an elitist attitude.

    I would like to say, FDA doesn’t have a clue, however I believe the higher ups are very smart and cunning and spend a lot of time planning on how they will oppose Congress and the American people.

    Itchmo: I’m so thankful that you live blogged today. Only thing is now I feel the food safety in this country doesn’t exist at all.
    Sure will kill the appetite at the dinner table tonight.


  5. HomeGrown says:

    abc news at 630 est will have the pet food recall

  6. Garyn says:

    This is really just nightmarish. I read an article the other day that reported a study which found that CEO’s of companies had many, many, many similar characteristics and personality traits as sociopathic prisoners. I do believe it. These people who smuggle in this poison and feed it to us do not care about society or what it means to be human. How can a civilized moral person not care about that.

    Last week I fed my dog and kitten some sardines. I bought the most expensive kind stupidly thinking that they would be Ok and I didn’t think at that moment that sardines may have eaten the pet food or who knows maybe they were decomposing fish.

    My dog became violently ill the following morning vomiting. He has been on a raw diet since March and in the greatest health. His blood test on March 16, 2007, coincidently taken the day before the recall, showed normal creatinine. Blood test taken three days after eating sardines showed a slightly increased creatinine. It cost me $700 so far and we go back next week for more blood tests. My smart baby kitten wouldn’t touch the sardine. She ate everything in her bowl except for the sardine. How can they say the fish are safe. If my dog does not fully recover… I won’t say what I will do publicly. But sociopaths beware.

  7. HorsesAss.Org» Blog Archive » Jay Inslee on food safety says:

    […] Capacity: Can the FDA Assure the Safety and Security of the Nation’s Food Supply?” (Itchmo has thorough coverage of the hearing.) And in fact, the situation is much worse than even Rep. Inslee describes. […]

  8. HomeGrown says:

    Hey! Who is using my name? I didn’t post this.

    HomeGrown says:

    July 17th, 2007 at 6:19 pm
    abc news at 630 est will have the pet food recall

  9. Captn' Carl says:

    Well: Now that all of that is said and done, all the posturing and saber rattling is finished, and all of the important so called “Experts” have spoken; do you get that warm fuzzy feeling? You know the one. When foresight and hindsight face off? Are you ready to give up your foolish ideas that they didn’t have your best interests at heart?

    Aw, C’mon now. They really tried to out do each other this time around for your benefit.

    I still wouldn’t trust any of them as far as I could throw the lot of them.

    Just another heaping helping of “more of the same”. What a colossal waste of time.

  10. mittens says:

    what do bonuses for the big wigs have to do with ‘food safety’? a typical american travestry. this is why big governement is bad-when the government controls anything it goes to hell in a melamine and pain killer laced basket.

    homeland security? what a farce. these asses couldn’t catch a herd of elephants dressed in neon lights and tutus crossing the border let alone tainted foodstuff. selfish greedy drones lining their pockets at the expense of the american tax payer , their pets and everyones’ physical well being. it is evil to tend to your own personal wealth with money earmarked for the safety of our food supply. i want that f’ing money back.

    power. corruption. lies.

  11. Tom Paine says:

    I truly hate the “government is bad” blather. Analyse this please! Government is necessary to any society. Even a the most authoritarian chief, priest, king is a form of government. “Government” is the bugaboo of the Reagan, neocon idealogues, who believe that paradise or utopia will be ushered in when there is no “government.” (Iraq, anyone? How about Somalia? Can I get Somalia for $100, Aleck?)

    No. What is of utmost concern are the individuals employed to uphold the standards. Taking a government job, and then displaying an appalling level of Incompetence, arrogance, cronyism, greed, and a commitment to destroy the very government and its institutions which is employing you, demonstrates such a deep level of moral rot and decay that all attempts to paint the broad brush of “government” pale. Individuals performed these acts. Individuals, hiding behind the collective anonymity of the group, performed these acts.

    The party of personal responsibility better take a closer look at itself.

  12. Roberto P. says:

    Is that Tom Paine as in Thomas Paine?

  13. mittens says:

    no one said , tom,, that government is bad. reading is fundamental. let’s read what people have actually written, shall we, before launching into a political harrangue directed at some mythical bugaboo. i said that big government is bad and i assume your rant was directed at my post as it had the word government in it.

    i believe in the constitution of the united states, as written, which indicates ,primarily ,that establishing justice is the primary function of government- that is the safety of those governed. and also that all power flows from the governed.

    no individual on the government, nanny state gravy train that is the hallmark of big government socialistic liberal democrat ideology( and also apparently bushian republicanism) is going to uphold any ethical standards whatsoever. the government doesn’t exist to give some people jobs- it is to do the will of the governed. civil employes line their pockets as do politicians at the trough of either the tax payer or big business. regulations and laws for the safety of the governed is the ONLY job of government-not providing health care, or telling us what we can eat or telling us what we can think or regulating our speech and media.

    the government as it now exists is painfully inadequet for dealing with the regulation of foodstuffs in this country. the system is broken because it is used as a tool of big business and is not legally empowered and funded to regulate. i have no reason to believe that if we throw money at the fda that it will make anything safer for anyone. you can feel good about how good government is for us all but the proof that it is not and is broken is seen in the fda’s own conference and the entire pet food recall. this is good government? your rhetoric is tripping you up-it’s big money bloated government that sucks. i suppose you think we throw money at it and it will be all better? we have seen, we give the fda more money and it gives itself bonuses.

    it’s libertarians not republicans that believe in no government. i am not a libertarian. i am also not a republican. reagan has come to light as one of our greatest m odern presidents because of his belief in the Constitution. that you think other parties( i assume again because you dont have the where with all to state it that these evil people responsible for every woe in your universe are republicans) are not plagued with greed and cronyism, moral rot and decay is either due to ignorance or brain washing. neither party is functioning according to the constitution. if we do not indict both equally there will never be any change. if political wind bagging is all we do, nothing will get fixed.address the problems, not the politics and they will be changed. the problem is not republicans the problem is the entire bolated fat out of control government with both hands in our pockets giving a free ride to large unregulated corporations while trying to keep individuals from eating pork rinds or smoking a cigarette.

  14. Mike says:

    China Quietly Muscles In on the Organic Food Market


    My local news will report this (NOT).

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