A recent statement by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb discusses new policies being considered by the regulator to help in supporting more efficient and effective food recalls.
“The re-issued, final version of the report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which examined our food recall practices over the time period from Oct. 1, 2012 to May 4, 2015, raised some significant concerns for me. While the FDA has addressed many of the findings after the draft version was first released in 2016, we still have more work to do,” said Gottlieb in the statement.
Gottlieb says the FDA needs to improve their recall procedures by examining how they can get recall information to consumers faster. One of the FDA’s future initiatives is to issue guidance information on recall communications this year. This information can better educate consumers on food products that are contaminated.
“As one example of the new steps we’re considering, the FDA is examining in what situations it can help consumers get information about the stores and food service locations that may have sold or distributed a potentially unsafe, recalled food, and what company may have supplied the product,” said Gottlieb. “If we’re able to disclose this information, consumers would have an easier time knowing if they might have, or have been, exposed to a recalled product that could cause potential risks if it were consumed.”
One of the most significant steps the FDA took over the past year was putting together a team of senior professionals in charge of reviewing complex or unusual food and safety situations and developing action plans to address any problems. The SCORE (Strategic Coordinated Oversight of Recall Execution) team has already reviewed cases involving lead contamination in dietary supplements, Salmonella in powdered milk products and listeria in hummus, soft cheese and smoked fish. In addition to identifying health hazards and initiating recalls, the SCORE team helped to speed up the process of identifying and suspending two food facilities in order to prevent the distribution of their contaminated food products.
“In addition to the establishment of SCORE, we’ve put in place several additional procedural and policy changes,” said Gottlieb. “Last year, after a comprehensive review of our recall process, we developed a new strategic plan that outlines actions to improve FDA’s recall management. The plan helps to standardize how the FDA assesses a company’s recall efforts, and provides additional training to our staff involved in recall efforts so they can properly monitor and assess the effectiveness of a recall.”
Gottlieb also said that more safety and regulatory efforts are to be announced in 2018. The association is looking at ways to speed up the timely process of gathering food safety information and releasing it to the public.
“We’re committed to continuously improving our policies and practices to ensure that recalls are initiated, overseen, and completed promptly and effectively to best protect consumers,” said Gottlieb. “Let me assure you that we will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that we carry through on this commitment.”