A just-released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to increase its focus on safety for some specific <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food ingredients, especially following the broad recall of potentially Salmonella-contaminated hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), said the Associated Press.
The report noted that some ingredients, including spices and artificial flavorsâ€”are not subject to ongoing and routine FDA safety reviews because the products are, said the AP, believed to be “generally recognized as safe.” Also according to the GAO, the agency is not doing all it could and it should mandate companies that manufacture or use these products to provide the government with better information, said the AP.
Salt, trans fats, spices, artificial flavorings, emulsifiers, binders, vitamins, minerals, and preservatives, said the AP, which are â€œgenerally recognized as safeâ€ and which are used to improve the food taste, consistency, longevity, and nutritional content. The agency agreedâ€””agrees broadly,” as a matter-of-factâ€”that its oversight could be better, according to a statement issued by FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle Friday.
Meanwhile, the HVP recall is expected to expand beyond the over 50 products recalled thus far, said the AP. Included in the recalls are â€œfour dip, gravy, and stuffing mixesâ€ that are manufactured by McCormick & Company, added the AP.
Most recently we wrote that the FDA announcedâ€”in part responding to the GAO investigationâ€”that it plans on stepping up its prosecutions of pharmaceutical and food industry executives as part of its work to revamp the agencyâ€™s criminal division said the Wall Street Journal. In addition to being condemned in a government report, the division was derided by Congress, added the Journal.
The FDA recently wrote to Senator Chuck Grassley (Republican-Iowa), saying that an internal committee recommended that the agency and its Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) â€œincrease the appropriate use of misdemeanor prosecutions, which allows responsible corporate officials to be held accountable and is a valuable enforcement tool,â€ quoted the Journal. According to the FDA, it has authority to â€œprosecute corporate executives for criminal actionsâ€ under a provision entitled â€œstrict liability.â€ Although not enacted to a great extent in recent years, the FDA spokesman said that the government is not required to prove intent to defraud in order to convict.
The GAO report said the OCI has operated relatively separate from the FDA with no minimal accountability and no requirement to explain its investigations or use of funds, explained the Journal. The GAO is a so-called â€œwatchdog armâ€ of Congress.
According to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, said Thompson Publications, the misdemeanor prosecutions are â€œa valuable enforcement toolâ€ and the agency came up with criteria for consideration in its choice of misdemeanor prosecution cases. Dr. Hamburg added that, the criteria â€œwill be incorporated into the revised policies and procedures that cover appropriate use of misdemeanor prosecutions,â€ quoted Thompson. Dr. Hamburg also told Grassley, in a letter, that the agency â€œis developing meaningful performance measures for OCI, as part of an agency-wide initiative,â€ adding that it is also â€œimplementing other significant effortsâ€ to address the issues identified by the GAO, reported Thompson.