FDA Faulted on Oversight of Imported Seafood

A just-released Congressional research report is faulting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for how it is managing the import of seafood into the United States and how it is protecting Americans from <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">foodborne illnesses originating with these imported foods, said The Wall Street Journal.

The report states that the agency is not appropriately reviewing overseas food producers and is not adequately inspecting foreign-produced seafood products, said the Journal. In response, Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, released a statement yesterday saying that new Congressionally-passed food-safety law is expected to improve how the FDA monitors these foods, reported the Journal.

The Journal noted that about half of the seafood imported to the U.S. is grown in foreign fish farms. This seafood is known for carrying bacterial infections that are typically treated with medications, specifically antibiotics, that are not approved in this country, said the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its report. “The residues of some drugs can cause cancer and antibiotic resistance,” the GAO said, quoted the Journal.

About $14.7 billion of seafood were imported into the U.S. in 2010, an increase from 2009’s figure of $13.1 billion, said the Journal, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.

Meanwhile, the FDA’s evaluation of seafood imports is usually just a review of records for importers and processors. “The [FDA] inspectors generally do not visit the farms to evaluate drug use or the capabilities, competence, and quality control of laboratories that analyze the seafood,” according to the report, quoted the Journal.

The FDA has “conducted foreign country assessments in five countries to gather information about those countries’ aquaculture programs,” the GAO said, adding that the FDA experiences limitations in the way of “procedures, criteria, and standards,” said the Journal.

Although an agreement was reached in 2009 between the FDA and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service over how to monitor these foods, the two agencies have, said the GAO in its conclusion, made only “limited progress,” the Journal reported.

Shockingly, in 2009, said the Journal, the FDA tested just 0.1% of all seafood imported in the U.S. for drug residues; the FDA only looks to seven of its 13 laboratories to conduct testing, the GAO pointed out in its report.

Earlier this year, the FDA, in an attempt to reduce food poisoning incidences and foodborne illness outbreaks, announced a budget request of $4.3 billion to protect and promote the public health as part of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget. This is a 33 percent increase over the FDA-enacted budget for FY 2010. The FY 2012 request covers the period of October 1, 2011, through September 30, 2012.

The FDA 2012 budget proposes four critical initiatives and increases: Transforming Food Safety and Nutrition ($324 million) Initiative, Advancing Medical Countermeasures ($70 million) Initiative, Protecting Patients Initiative ($124 million), and Regulatory Science and Facilities Initiative ($49 Million).

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