FDA Sued Over Failure To Regulate
The White House has, time and again, reiterated its promise to ensure food safety for Americans. But it seems that its agencies, specifically the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are falling short of this promise. After the agency failed to meet two of its deadlines to establish regulations this year, two health groups have filed a complaint against FDA in a San Francisco federal court. The complaint is filed by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH).
The two groups are accusing the Obama administration of having failed to put into place seven major food safety-related laws. These regulations have already been signed by President Barack Obama in January 2011, as part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act. One of these regulations was to be implemented in January this year and it would have set standards for safe production and harvest of fruits and vegetables. Another case is that of establishing regulations for food transporters to employ sanitary practices, which was to be done by the month of July this year. In both the cases, the FDA failed to meet the deadlines.
What About Food Safety?
The CFS and the CEH are complaining that with one in six Americans falling sick because of food-borne illnesses, it is nothing less than a crime to delay implementation of such important laws. To support its claim, the two groups are also using the estimates presented by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that about 48 million people become ill, 128,000 are admitted to hospitals, and 3,000 are dead because of illnesses contracted through food items. More often than not, various industries have complained that the FDA guidelines are not specific enough. But this time, there are no guidelines at all and that is what has pissed off these two groups.
Make It Fast!
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in San Francisco, wants the FDA to implement the regulations at an earliest. The groups have asked the federal court to order FDA officials as well as the Office of Management and Budget to enforce the law. One of the plaintiffs, Andrew Kimbrell, said, “President Obama says the passage of this bill is one of the hallmarks of his first administration. The bill is useless unless the agencies actually promulgate regulations that make it work. This is very serious. They are twiddling their bureaucratic thumbs while Americans become sick and die. These are the basics on standards, procedures, traceability…upon which the entire system is based. They haven’t done what is required to actually begin the process of getting this new food safety law in place.” As you can see, the FDA is doing a disservice to the Americans by continuing to sit on these laws and not implementing them, even though 18 months have passed since President Obama signed them in to a law.
In wake of the scandals hitting America's agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and dairy sector, FDA's attitude is incriminating. Food recall is turning out to be order of the day. As you can see, it is imperative that the public should also experience the benefits of such a hallmark law. This is not the first time that FDA has had to hear it from public health advocates and NGOs, regarding its dilly-dallying ways. Some time back, the dairy industry went against the agency over the FDA instructions on milk testing. The worst case of bad publicity was when it was found that Hollywood actor Heath Ledger’s death was caused by FDA approved pharmaceuticals. However, this time, if the Agency continues to ignore the food safety of Americans, it will have a hard time explaining all the deaths.