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FDA Reports on Recall Events

03/21/2019

A March 19th joint statement from the Commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Scott Gottlieb and the Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas, outlined improvements in the FDA Food Safety Program based on the 2020 budget developed by the White House. It is noted that appropriations will ultimately have to be made by Congress, but food safety is high on the list of priorities since it is essentially non-partisan.

During fiscal 2017, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition responded to 794 recall events associated with microbial contamination and undeclared allergens and undertook responsibility for the recall of 3,600 products. During fiscal 2017 and 2018, the FDA Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network dealt with 120 human food safety outbreak incidents annually.

Deputy Commissioner Yiannas has considerable experience in implementation of trace-back investigations with specific reference to a blockchain system introduced in his previous position with Walmart stores. Deficiencies in identifying the source of STEC contamination of Romaine lettuce responsible for extensive outbreaks denoted the need for digital records for tracking and tracing products. Experience gained with the E.coli 0157 outbreaks led to improvements in labeling including harvest date and location which has enhanced traceability.

FDA has introduced the Plant and Animal Biotechnology Innovation Action Plan. This will facilitate innovation in plant and animal biotechnology to improve the food safety component of the FDA public health mission. During the past two years, FDA has introduced Whole Genome Sequencing to determine the source of contaminated foods attributed to outbreaks of infection.

Although the FDA is placing an emphasis on food safety, fragmentation of responsibility and jurisdiction among a number of government departments, principally USDA and FDA suggest that a unified food safety agency, as in Europe, would best serve the interest of consumers.