Monday, January 12, 2009

Joani, Food Safety or Special Interests?

This article is discussing the potential FDA laboratory closure plan that will close a little more than half of the laboratories used to patrol and test imported and potentially distributed food. This proposal has been under extreme inquiry due to the increase of food problems in the U.S., which include the peanut butter contamination issue caused by salmonella. Opponents of the closures claim that The Food and Drug Administration will be unable to successfully patrol the food imports due to the inability to produce necessary resources and authority. Further investigation revealed that the existing laboratories lacked enough workers to patrol adequately and even found that only a measly 1% of the imports were inspected. The article mentions that these closures will also hinder the knowledge capacity that is necessary to prevent any more significant emergencies. Proponents of the closures state that it is necessary to close these laboratories so that they can introduce the FDA structures into the 21st century. They claimed I will allow them to increase the technology by using more robotics which will, in turn, allow specialists to test food at their specific locations. Aside from this seemingly positive proposal, it still is argued that closing these sites would decrease to amount of food testing agents. They also fear an increase in the sneaky techniques of the foreign food importers, who often ship directly to cities who do not have testing sites. Closures aside, many agree that the FDA needs a budget increase that rises above to proposal President Bush offered.

It is very apparent to me that aside from the self-destructive closure plan, the main issue is the incapability of the current laboratories and testers to successfully do their job. Whether this is accounted by the lack of funds or authority, it is obviously an issue. In the article it stated that at one site in San Francisco, inspectors had 30 seconds to decide whether or not a shipment of freight needed to be more closely examined. That is not even enough time to tell what kind of food the freight is even carrying, let alone enough time to make a crucial inspection decision. The issue of economics seems to play a very significant role in the proper inspection of the food imports. The article also claimed that the FDA allows “questionable products to be shipped to importers, who then pay a private laboratory to test the product”. These “private” investigators aren’t even approved by the FDA. The private financial interests behind this scheme seem to be a bigger issue than closing the already inadequate laboratories. The most significant problem here is that instead of focusing on safety issues, they are more concerned about money. This is very ironic when tomatoes and peanut butter products are being pulled off of the shelves after outbreaks of salmonella and E.coli are reported. I think a big reason this closure plan is receiving such scrutiny is because the FDA has not been able to control the imports, so closing the existing testing sites creates a destructive image of food testing to come.

Lauer, Claudia. "FDA closure plan raises concerns about food safety." LA Times 18 July 2007: P. A14.

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