The discovery of the salmonella-tainted peanut butter produced and sold by the Peanut Corporation of America at one of its plants, at Blakely, GA, raises a vital question for all Americans. Does the Food and Drug Administration have the resources to ensure the safety of America’s domestic and imported food supply?
The Agriculture Department does a good job of inspecting animal-based products such as meat, poultry, and dairy, but the remaining part of the food supply that falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA is a different kettle of fish. The FDA is failing to oversee adequately its share of food and cannot guarantee the safety of foreign food imports.
Former FDA Deputy Commissioner William Hubbard, now of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture earlier this month that the FDA’s responsibilities have grown as its resources have diminished. In the 1970s the FDA performed 35,000 inspections a year, with 70,000 food processing plants subject to regulation. Today, the FDA conducts only 7,000 inspections a year, yet the number of plants has grown to 150,000.
Inspection of imported food is worse. The FDA inspects only a fraction of one percent of the 216,000 foreign facilities exporting food into America.