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New FDA Head Will Have A Lot On His Plate

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, February 02, 2009 3:40 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Salmonella, Food Borne Illness, Public Health, FDA, Food Safety

President Obama wants to overhaul food inspections in this country




IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ Salmonella Typhimurium/ author:  Nutloaf from Sydney, AU


President Obama told the Today Show that the salmonella outbreak raises the call for a sweeping review of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food safety inspection program.

The FDA has “not been able to catch some of these things as quickly as I expect them to,” he said and “we’re going to be doing a complete review of FDA operations.”

President Obama has still not named an FDA head, which will determine the direction of the agency - business as usual, or more vigilance in food inspections and in monitoring the safety of the pharmaceutical industry.

“At a bare minimum, we should be able to count on our government keeping our kids safe when they eat peanut butter,” said Obama. “That’s what Sasha eats for lunch,” he said, referring to his 7-year-old daughter. Jars of peanut butter have not been included in the recall, just bulk peanut butter sold commercially, and peanut paste which appears in everything from dog biscuits to energy bars. 

Barack Obama is considering for the FDA top job Baltimore’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, 39, a pediatrician who was the driving force behind questioning the safety of child cold medications.  Also on the list is as FDA head is Dr. Steven E. Nissen, 60, who is an outspoken critic of the pharmaceutical giants and their big-selling medications.

“This is a failed agency,” Dr. Nissen said in a recent interview to the New York Times, “and it has lost the public’s confidence.”

The peanut butter salmonella outbreak is just the latest example of a lapse in security by the FDA.

Last summer, the U.S. tomato industry was hit hard by salmonella Saintpaul that was suspected to be coming from the red fruit. It was later identified to be coming from peppers from Mexico, but not until months of investigation failed to find the source and decimated the market.


So far, 529 people have been sickened by salmonella sourced at the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) ini Blakely, Georgia. Eight people have died who had salmonella poisoning. PCA knew it had a contamination problem as early as 2007 reports the FDA, which helped open a criminal investigation of the company last week. 

About 800 products have been recalled. Check the FDA’s web site to see the growing list.

Half of those getting sick are under the age of 16, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that salmonella sickness appears to be slowing, though the agency can’t say for certain.

Today Walgreens announced it was recalling four types of its chocolate candy because it contains peanuts, following an expanded recall from PCA that include products produced at its Georgia plant since January 1, 2007.  

Tin Roof Sundae ice cream has recalled multiple brands.  Caribou Coffee is recalling its fruit and nut blend of trail mix, it was announced January 30.

Kroger grocery chain, one of the largest in the country with stores in 31 states, is recalling peanut products. Kroger operates under several names such as Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, among others. 

Radiation is not likely to eradicate the problem as peanuts have cracks that oil and salmonella can mix and be untouched, reports the New York Times.   #

1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Hilary Smith
Tuesday, February 03, 2009 2:54 AM EST

The ruling class is completely out of control. Bush dismantled the People's institutions and now we will have to spend time, money and probably lives putting it all back together. The Bush Presidency has caused such a setback to the progress of American society, it's a shame and hopefully we learned our lesson about electing a dime-a-dozen Joe as leader of the free world.

Comments for this article are closed.

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