Last Friday, POLITICO released a multi-chapter article scrutinizing the FDA’s delayed response to food safety, recalls, and foodborne illness outbreaks, especially when it comes to produce and PFAS, the “forever chemicals.”
The news site conducted an independent investigation based on more than 50 interviews, finding that the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) “has repeatedly failed to take timely action on a wide range of safety and health issues the agency has been aware of for several years, including dangerous pathogens found in water used to grow produce and heavy metal contamination in baby foods.”
The investigation analyzes the FDA’s structure and lack of attention to the food portion of the department, arguing that there is a deep-rooted culture of indecision and power struggles that ultimately cost consumers. The article goes on to cite the CDC, estimating that “more than 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die from foodborne illnesses each year,” to drive home the impact of the FDA’s negligence.
In response to POLITICO’s article, the head of CFSAN, Susan Mayne, said her division was working with limited resources and funding, stating that the entire nutrition group, which includes allergen labeling, infant formula, and medical foods, is staffed by under 70 people.
This week, lawmakers responded by calling for answers and immediate actions. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf expressing her concern on the delays with critical issues like infant formula and urged the FDA to act and fulfill its mission of ensuring the safety of our food supply. Additionally, Representative Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) tweeted about the article and requested a briefing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee to prioritize food safety.