New Report Highlights That Consumers Are At Risk from Contaminated Products
A new report highlighted by The New York Times reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken too long to get food products off store shelves after associated hazards were reported. Specifically, despite having the necessary authority, the agency did not move quickly enough to protect consumers.
The inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services examined food recalls between 2012 and 2015, and found that the FDA not only did not evaluate food-borne hazards quickly enough, but also did not ensure that companies initiated recalls promptly. One company in particular took more than 300 days to recall a potentially hazardous product under the FDA’s authority.
People Getting Sick from Food-Borne Illnesses
Although the Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction over recalling meat and poultry products, the FDA has jurisdiction over most-all of the food supply, which includes all processed foods. Almost 50 million Americans get sick over food-borne diseases each year, with approximately 3,000 dying and almost 130,000 being hospitalized.
Many would be surprised to find out that the vast majority of food recalls are voluntary instead of mandatory, even if adulteration, contamination, or mislabeling is injuring and/or killing people. The report found specific deficiencies in the FDA’s oversight of recalls and in monitoring and follow-up to recalls, as well as in tracking data and evaluating health hazards in a timely manner.
The FDA was provided with additional power to police food companies via the Food Safety and Modernization Act (Act) in 2011. It allows the FDA to issue mandatory recalls when companies fail to voluntarily recall unsafe food products after being put on notice by the FDA.
The FDA was found to have used its authority under the Act only twice, according to the inspector general’s report. Overall, the inspector general found that consumers still faced grave risks of developing illness or dying “for several weeks after the FDA was aware of a potentially hazardous food.” Specifically, it took an average of 27 to 165 to start a recall on a given product with salmonella or another type of contamination.
A Consumer Protection Issue
The ability for the FDA to affect a recall in a timely fashion is a “core consumer protection function” of the agency, as noted by the FDA Commissioner himself. Still, as reported, food-borne illnesses continue to represent a substantial public health threat; Campylobacter infections, for example, are a common source of infection, and infections linked to Cryptosporidium, Shiga toxin-producing E.coli, and Yersinia have been on the rise in recent years.
Florida Consumer Rights Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been wrongfully harmed by a contaminated product, you should speak with an experienced personal injury and commercial litigation lawyer right away. Contact the attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan in Florida to find out how we can help.