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FDA jeopardized American lives by waiting THREE MONTHS to recall salmonella-tainted peanut butter products

Food recalls

(NaturalNews) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not force a recall of salmonella-tainted peanut butter and almond products after advanced DNA testing confirmed a salmonella contamination, a government watchdog said in a review of the agency's food safety program.

In the report, Daniel R. Levinson, the Inspector General, said that peanut butter and almond products were voluntarily recalled by nSpired Natural Foods, Inc. after 165 days (or more than five months), making at least 14 people seriously ill with a strain of salmonella linked to the strain found at the firm's manufacturing facility.

Salmonella is a bacterial infection that can cause serious health issues and can be fatal for young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

"FDA does not have adequate policies and procedures to ensure that firms take prompt and effective action in initiating voluntary food recalls. As a result, consumers remained at risk of illness or death for several weeks after FDA was aware of a potentially hazardous food in the supply chain," the report reads.

"We suggest that FDA revise its policies and procedures to instruct 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."

Lax approach to food safety

The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General reviewed 30 recalls that occurred between 2012 and 2015, and found a similar case where it took the government 81 days to recall a variety of listeria-tainted cheese products made by a Virginia firm. At least nine people became seriously ill, and one infant died.

Despite the FDA's power to force recalls of potentially harmful foods and new sophisticated DNA screening technologies to identify pathogens at an early stage, they still fail to warn the public, placing consumers in jeopardy of a serious illness or death.

"Months and weeks when peoples' lives are on the line?" asked lead investigator George Nedder. "It needs to be done faster."

While the FDA has the authority to order recalls, they do not use this power, nor do they have policies or procedures to ensure fast voluntary food recalls. In a statement, Rosa DeLauro, who oversees food and drug safety for an FDA-focused house subcommittee, called the absence of procedures and recall timelines "mind-boggling."

Furthermore, she mentioned the salmonella outbreak in cucumbers last year, where nearly 900 people became sick, 191 of whom were hospitalized, and six of whom actually died.

"Delays like this one - and others found in the report - are completely unacceptable and leave American consumers at risk for illness and death," DeLauro said.

FDA called the report's findings 'unacceptable'

On their blog, FDA officials Stephen Ostroff and Howard Sklamberg called the report's findings "unacceptable," claiming that the agency is "totally committed" to food safety.

Nonetheless, they admitted that the system is flawed, and said that the FDA has set up a group of safety officials to oversee outbreaks and review problematic cases that seem to be moving too slowly.

"That way we will be able to take action much more quickly in circumstances where there seems to be some reluctance at the firm," Ostroff said.

They noted that once more experience is gained in the new DNA screening technique, they hope to be able to shorten the timelines. The FDA also has a plan underway to strengthen compliance and enforcement policies, including both voluntary and mandatory recalls.

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