FDA Job Outsourcing Plan Slammed by Members of Congress

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is being criticized by members of Congress for considering a plan to outsource more than 300 jobs. Last week, the FDA announced that it was reviewing the positions in more than 20 cities to determine if it would be more cost-effective to contract the jobs out to private companies. The initial list of jobs the FDA was considering for outsourcing included lab technicians and field office workers who were involved in the safety testing of food and medical products. But the FDA later revised that list to include only administrative jobs not involved in testing and inspections.

Now, Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, have launched an investigation into the FDA’s outsourcing proposal. The Congressmen have called the plan “hasty and injudicious”, and have urged the FDA to wait for the recommendations of the Import Safety Working Group formed by the White House. The Congressmen have also requested that the FDA provide them with all documents connected to the outsourcing plan.

In the past year, Congress has been harsh in its criticism of the FDA, which is charged with policing the safety of food, drugs and medical devices. Safety scandals involving FDA-approved drugs, like Vioxx and Avandia; along with problems with tainted imported foods have lead many to question the FDA’s performance. During a congressional hearing in July, investigators testified that FDA personnel charged with reviewing imports at US ports were completely overwhelmed. It was reported that most reviewers were each responsible for tracking 600 food shipments and 300 medical device shipments each day. Reviewers at FDA labs fared no better. In the San Francisco testing lab, an FDA staffer has only 30 seconds to review each shipment of imports as they flashed by on a computer screen, investigators told Congress.

Those types of revelations have led many to question the wisdom of any type of outsourcing plan. “It is truly incomprehensible why the agency would again consider reducing the expertise and institutional knowledge of the FDA at a time when FDA’s credibility with the American people is at an all time low,” read a statement from Dingell and Stupak.

Earlier this month, the FDA had backed down on a plan to close seven of its 13 testing labs when Congress protested the move. At that time, the FDA said that it was putting the lab closure plans on hold until it heard from the presidential panel on import safety. That panel is expected to release its findings on September 17.

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