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25 Hospitalized in Widening Salmonella Scare -FDA Plan Lags

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, June 12, 2008 11:30 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: FDA, Public Health, Salmonella, E. coli

FDA under scrutiny for not impelementing its food protection plan.  25 people hospitalized in widening salmonella scare. Salmonella contamination has widened to 23 states and 25 hospitalized.

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IMAGE SOURCE: FDA/ Red Plum and Red Roma Tomatoes 

 

Just as the FDA was being taken to task by Congress today, reports of consumers sickened by Salmonella-contaminated tomatoes widened by 61 new cases.

Now up to 23 states have been affected and 228 victims have been sickened.  25 have been hospitalized, while the source of the two-month-old Salmonella outbreak is still a mystery.  

A 67-year-old man who died of cancer was also infected with the specific strain of Salmonella at the focus of the investigation. Meanwhile, new cases are being investigated every day.

The infection is caused by the Salmonella Saintpaul strain, a rare type of the Salmonella bacteria, that originates in feces. Inspectors have not yet checked Mexico as the source, as it was in the middle of its harvest when the contamination broke out in mid-April.

Salmonella from contaminated tomatoes, E. coli from spinach, and other food concerns have undermined consumer confidence, and a new report says the Food and Drug Administration is not up to the task of inspecting food for safety. 

A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and delivered to the House Energy and Commerce Committee today, said the agency has not even put into place its own “Food Protection Plan,” which it promoted last November, nor has it released any details on resources or strategies to make it work.

“These continued outbreaks are unacceptable,” Rep. John Dingell said.  

The Food Protection Plan, which establishes a framework for improving food safety oversight, was released in November 2007.  The GAO expressed concerns that the FDA might be falling behind in implementing the plan.

“In March 2008, F.D.A. officials indicated that a progress report on actions taken to implement the ‘food protection plan’ would be issued in April 2008,” the report says. “In May, F.D.A. officials told us that they had prepared a draft progress report, but as of June 4, 2008, F.D.A. had not made this report public.”

The problem is money.  In order to inspect every one of the more than 65,000 domestic food firms, the FDA would need about $524 million.  And to inspect each one of the 189,000 registered foreign food facilities, the bill would amount to $3.16 billion.

Earlier this week, the Bush administration said it planned to ask for another $125 million for the FDA next year in addition to a three percent increase. 

Michael Taylor, a professor at George Washington University, calls the budget increase a “down payment.”  He and the FDA Science Board are calling for a doubling of the food safety budget to $1.4 billion within five years to enact a shift from reaction to prevention.

All of this is happening when the number of food facilities has increased from 51,000, seven years ago, to more than 65,000 last year. During that time the number of inspections declined by about 150.

FDA’s associate commissioner for foods, Dr. David Acheson says the agency needs the power to refuse admitting imported foods it cannot inspect, and should be able to issue mandatory food recalls if voluntary ones are not effective.

Acheson assured lawmakers today that within six to eight weeks, the FDA will give more specifics on its Food Protection Plan.

Anyone who needs to report an incident to the FDA is asked to call a number listed in the Consumer Complaint page of the FDA's Web site. #


1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Wayne
Friday, June 13, 2008 12:54 PM EST

A possible solution?
LINK

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