FDA Asks Congress For Law Mandating That Imported Food Products Be Screened For Lead

(NewsReady.com) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking Congress for a new law on food inspections. The agency says there’s a problem with toxic metal contamination in some imported foods. Right now, manufacturers don’t have to test for the problem. The FDA wants that to change because it claims it doesn’t have the resources to do the job itself.

On April 11, FDA commissioner Dr Robert Califf discussed a range of health issues with the House Oversight Committee. During the meeting, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) asked Califf how contaminated cinnamon applesauce pouches from Ecuador had slipped through safety checks and left hundreds of Americans suffering from chromium and lead poisoning. Califf’s answer was that Congress should see the FDA as a referee that enforces the rules, but it’s up to Congress to write them. He also said food manufacturers are the first line of defense against contaminated food but can’t always be relied on to catch problems.

Califf explained that the FDA has a finite budget, and can’t inspect everything. He called for manufacturers to be required to test their own food, as drug companies currently have to do. In the case of the contaminated applesauce, he said, the problem would probably have been avoided if the manufacturer had been required to test the product for lead or other contaminants before shipping it to the US, where there have been at least 519 confirmed or suspected cases of poisoning across 44 states. As it is, nobody was responsible for testing the sauce to make sure it didn’t contain dangerous toxins.

If Congress passes a law mandating testing, the FDA would be able to take action against manufacturers that don’t test their products. The alternative is for the agency to test all food products themselves, and Califf says they can’t do that on their current budget.

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