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June 9, 2016: FDA Recall Policy Ineffecient, HHS Finds

FDA Recall Policy

On June 9, 2016, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released their “audit” of the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food recall procedure. According to the HHS’s determination, the FDA has allowed the time between detecting a dangerous food product and recalling said product to lag. By the HHS’s estimation, this faulty policy puts the safety of the Nation’s food supply at risk.

HHS FDA Recall Policy Flaws

The specific faulty policy, the HHS report posits, is caused by a lack of FDA internal oversight , namely a failure to “instruct its recall staff to establish set timeframes for (1) FDA to request that firms voluntarily recall their products and (2) firms to initiate voluntary food recalls.”

FDA Current Regulation

When a food product is found to contain a dangerous element, the FDA alerts the company which produces this food product first. Then the FDA will set a period of time in which the company should issue a voluntary recall. The company, generally, will comply to issue a voluntary recall. If a company neglects or rejects the FDA’s request to recall their own product, then the FDA can issue a mandatory recall order.


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FDA Corrects HHS’s Conclusion

The FDA partly defends itself against these findings, and partly concedes to them.

“During a nearly three-year period recently reviewed by the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), the FDA oversaw thousands of food recalls, with an average time for recall initiation of less than a week,” an FDA Press Statement argues in response to the HHS report. “A small number of these recalls fell well outside of that average, with months passing before all impacted products were taken off shelves, even though the FDA notified the companies involved of a contamination as soon as it had evidence.”

FDA Plans in Response to HHS Finding

The FDA, however, does consider the main points of HHS report to be accurate: “While some food recalls are more complicated than others due to the nature of the product(s), contamination, and investigation, the recall process should be as swift as possible and the FDA is already taking concrete steps to address the OIG’s concerns. These steps include the establishment of a rapid-response team made up of agency leaders, and the introduction of new technologies to make the process even swifter.”

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