They knew

Admittedly, this is not exactly a scientific approach but it’s sobering nonetheless, and it serves to illustrate a theme:

Type the search phrase “The FDA knew” into Google. Wheat gluten, antidepressants, Crestor, benzene, Thimerasol, Redux, flu vaccine contamination, and that’s just the first page of articles alleging that the Food and Drug Administration knew about substances, foods, medicines that posed a threat to American consumers — that the agency knew about these issues and apparently did not act on that knowledge.

Let’s look at the FDA’s mission statement and see if we don’t have a collective shudder of cognitive dissonance in light of the above:

The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. The FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines and foods more effective, safer, and more affordable; and helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health.

And so now, we find yet another instance, another threat that went unheeded because the agency was being too…. too what exactly? Too gobsmacked, overwhelmed, corrupt, inefficient, in corporate cahoots, pick one, I’m not sure it matters anymore.

The Food and Drug Administration has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S.history, documents and interviews show.

Overwhelmed by huge growth in the number of food processors and imports, however, the agency took only limited steps to address the problems and relied on producers to police themselves, according to agency documents.

Well, as we know, being the government is hard work, ya’ll. It’s complicated and stuff. [/whine]

The outbreaks point to a need to change the way the agency does business, said Robert E. Brackett, director of the FDA’s food-safety arm, which is responsible for safeguarding 80 percent of the nation’s food supply.

“We have 60,000 to 80,000 facilities that we’re responsible for in any given year,” Brackett said. Explosive growth in the number of processors and the amount of imported foods means that manufacturers “have to build safety into their products rather than us chasing after them,” Brackett said. “We have to get out of the 1950s paradigm.”

Tomorrow, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing on the unprecedented spate of recalls.

“This administration does not like regulation, this administration does not like spending money, and it has a hostility toward government. The poisonous result is that a program like the FDA is going to suffer at every turn of the road,” said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the full House committee. Dingell is considering introducing legislation to boost the agency’s accountability, regulatory authority and budget.

Full story from the Washington Post.

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