According to a new report the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general issued, contaminated food is not being removed from stores shelves quick enough.
The reports indicated that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not always use an effective and efficient process for food recall that ensured the safety of the food supply in the U.S.
Federal investigators researched 30 food recalls from 1,557 that took place from 2012 to 2015.
Their investigation shows that food companies took on average 57 days to have items recalled after the FDE had been informed of the possible danger.
The lead author for the report, George Nedder, who is the assistant regional inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department, said that the agency’s review has found the FDA is lacking adequate procedures and policies to ensure that companies take effective and prompt action in starting voluntary food recalls.
He added that it means dangerous food products might have remained in the nation’s food supply weeks after the FDA had been aware they could be contaminated.
A baby died in one instance, and nine more became very ill, all from the consumption of cheese that was contaminated with listeria. In that incident 81 days passed between the time, when the FDA had learned of the product being contaminated, to when the recall was initiated by the company.
Each year approximately 130,000 people across the U.S. have to be hospitalized due to food-borne illnesses, and 3,000 die.
The Commissioner of the FDA Scott Gottlieb agreed the new report has raised significant concerns. Gottlieb said he takes the obligations seriously, and making sure the agency has an effective recall policy in place and immediate action is taken to address any unsafe foods are high priorities of his.
Gottlieb added that the recall authorities of the FDA and how the agency deploys them is the cornerstone to vital, consumer protection.
The FDA holds jurisdiction over most of the food supply in the U.S., as meat and poultry is taken care of by the Department of Agriculture.
In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The act gave the FDA authority to issue mandatory recalls if a company does not implement a voluntary recall for unsafe food after asked to by the agency.
The review was carried out by the inspector’s general’s office as a way to determine if the FDA was fulfilling the responsibility it has in safeguarding the food supply of the nation now that it hold authority to issue a mandatory recall.