Congressional Letter of Inquiry On Food Recalls and Contamination Goes Out To Major Food Firms

May 9, 2008

The Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter of inquiry to 49 major food firms that requests extensive information on the firms’ handling of food recalls and food contamination events.  The letter was signed by both John Dingell, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The Congressional press release states that FDA has failed to maintain the integrity of the food supply, and that “it is time to determine if the owners of the largest brand names on supermarket shelves have been forthcoming with the American people about the safety of their products.”  The press release provides a link to a list of 313 food recalls that are asserted to have occurred in the past 16 months, based on notices released by FDA and the affected companies.

For the time period dating back to January 1, 2000, the letter of inquiry requests: 1) a list of all food recalls and safety alerts issued and the corresponding contaminant, if any; 2) all instances of positive internal test results for certain bacteria and viruses in excess of limits acceptable to FDA or state regulatory authorities; 3) all instances of positive internal test results for chemical contaminants in excess of limits acceptable to FDA or state regulatory authorities; 4) for imported products, all instances of positive internal or external test results for chemical or microbiological contaminants in excess of FDA or State regulatory limits; 5) for each of the preceding items, information as to whether FDA was notified, and if not, why not; and 6) a list of all instances where FDA or a state regulatory authority was denied entrance to any foreign or domestic facility or denied access to records regarding microbiological or chemical testing.  The Committee requests domestic facilities’ information by May 22, 2008 and foreign facilities’ information by June 5, 2008.

Issuance of the letters of inquiry follows closely on the heels of the release of a discussion draft of the FDA Globalization Act of 2008, which would overhaul the nation’s food safety system. The issuance of the letters is further evidence, as if any were needed, that food safety is likely to remain at the top of the Congressional agenda and that additional hearings are likely.

By Diane B. McColl & Ricardo Carvajal

Categories: Foods