Something is very, very wrong here. How can a regulatory agency in charge of protecting the public at large from food safety hazards allow our nation’s food suppliers to police themselves? That’s not regulation, it’s a scandalous, outrageous joke.
Our country’s food suppliers are allowed to hire private companies to inspect the operations of the very same companies that hired them. In turn, food manufacturers, distributors and retailers often rely on their suppliers’ audit reports, instead of conducting an audit of their own.
The FDA ” responsible for regulating the safely of our nation’s food supply ” is nowhere to be found in this chain of events; the FDA’s absence has culminated in 9 tragic deaths, hundreds sickened, investigations, dozens of lawsuits, and the largest food recall in U.S. history. What we have here is a totally self-policing food industry whose latest scandal involves a salmonella outbreak traced to the Peanut Corp. plants in Blakely, Georgia and Texas.
AP claims federal law does not require food companies to pay for their own inspections of suppliers. Nor are industry labs and inspectors required to tell the government about any problems they find.
Last year, a private inspection company, AIB, awarded Peanut Corp. a certificate for “superior” quality at its Plainview, Texas, plant; this year, salmonella was discovered there.
According to the Wall Street Journal: Last December, AIB gave Peanut Corp.’s plant manager at the Blakely, Ga., facility advance notice of an inspection. The inspector later gave the plant a superior rating. Subsequently, federal inspectors investigating the salmonella outbreak found mold, dead rodents and other safety violations at the plant.
“There is an obvious and inherent conflict of interest when an auditor works for the same supplier it is evaluating,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee. He termed it a “cozy relationship”
It took a government subcommittee to learn that private inspectors contracted by Peanut Corp. of America failed to find health risks at Peanut Corp. facilities.
Nestle, who had no recalls, used its own inspectors and declined to do business with Peanut Corp. based on their inspector’s report.
The subcommittee released a 2002 Nestle USA inspection report of Peanut Corp.’s Blakely plant. “They found that the place was filthy,” said Rep. Henry Waxman.
AP reports: “A second audit by Nestle USA of Peanut Corp.’s Texas facility in 2006 also found major pest control and other problems. The audit said that would disqualify the plant from supplying chopped peanut pieces to sprinkle atop Drumstick ice-cream cones. Auditors found at least 50 mouse carcasses in and around the plant and also a dead pigeon lying on the ground near the peanut-receiving door.'”
So two reports funded by Nestle, one in 2002 and 2006, exposed Peanut Corp. as a hazard to public health and safety and nothing was ever done about it”-for years, the reports’ finding somehow never found their way to the FDA, or any government agency.
Lawmakers blamed Kellogg for relying on the bogus inspections. “I think we did everything we could do,” replied Kellogg CEO David Mackay. Kellogg, he said, requires certifications and audits for the 3,000 ingredients it buys from 1,000 suppliers.
“I think Kellogg is sloppy,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman. “I think this resulted in a tragedy that could have been prevented.”
Instead of criticizing the FDA – the federal agency in charge of regulated our food companies – both Waxman and House Democrats hold food companies responsible.
As President Obama rightly refers to the FDA as a “hazard to public health”, Peanut Corp. is under criminal investigation for shipping products it knew to be contaminated. But the FDA should have inspected Peanut Corp. themselves, and it’s the FDA, and lawmakers that should be under criminal investigation for negligent homicide.
- A Guide to the Salmonella Outbreak (sciam.com)
- Salmonella Peanut Butter Plantowner Living Incarnation Of Evil Cartoon Character [Salmonella] (consumerist.com)
- Ecstasy Safer Than Peanuts (outsidethebeltway.com)
- How a Drumstick puts things into perspective (mattscherer.blogspot.com)
- Obama Vows to Overhaul Food Safety System (shoppingblog.com)