In Wake of Peanut Salmonella, Obama to Announce FDA ReviewFeb 2, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The enormous peanut butter salmonella outbreak that has sickened over 500 and is linked to eight deaths has President Barack Obama ordering a “complete review” of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) he said in an interview on the Today Show with Matt Lauer this morning.
The agency has long been criticized for a wide variety of issues, conflicts, and failures, with the recent, highly publicized peanut butter debacle causing outrage nationwide. Said Obama, the peanut butter contamination that has hit nearly every state and Canada was just the most recent in an array of “instances over the last several years” in which “the FDA has not been able to catch some of these things as quickly as I expect them to catch,” reported Today.
Obama did not detail any other issues, but Today noted that critics routinely pointed to the recent Bush administration as having “crippled” the FDA with eight years of budget cuts and a refusal to conduct an overhaul of the failing agency. “At bare minimum, we should be able to count on our government keeping our kids safe when they eat peanut butter,” said Obama in the Today Show interview. Obama noted that the peanut butter scandal hits close to home for him referring to his youngest daughter, Sasha, saying, “that’s what Sasha eats for lunch probably three times a week…. I don’t want to have to worry about whether she’s going to get sick as a consequence to having her lunch.”
USA Today said that, last week, Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) expanded its recall to include two years' worth of production and included peanuts and peanut meal, among other products, to the standing peanut butter and paste recall. Over 800 products have been recalled, it said, making it one of the largest recalls in history.
Not only had the FDA ignored the PCA plant solely responsible for the massive outbreak, it knew PCA hired a lab which revealed that it had conducted no less than 12 tests with positive results for salmonella in 2007 and 2008. Instead of ordering a sanitizing and quarantine, which is what the FDA said should have occurred, PCS hired a second lab to conduct testing, reported the Boston Globe, which added that the PCA scandal is not a one-time blunder, but rather, evidence of a routine pattern. The outbreak, in addition to countless illness and deaths, has resulted in hundreds of recalls, said Today, which reported that state and federal health officials confirmed that PCA “knowingly” shipped salmonella-tainted products. A criminal investigation is planned by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigation and the Justice Department.
The Boston Globe reported that well before this outbreak, the FDA received a report of a PCA shipment that was rejected in Canada and returned to the United States because is was severely contaminated with metal fragments. The FDA should have immediately ordered an investigation and didn’t.
This morning, Obama said, “we are going to make sure that we retool the FDA, that it’s operating in a highly professional fashion and, most importantly, that we prevent these things, as opposed to trying to catch them after they’ve already occurred,” reported Today.
The FDA has maintained a page on its site with up-to-date information on the recall at: http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/Salmonellatyph.html