Philpott, who works with companies on recall procedures and policies, said she’s worked with companies that were informed of three-week-old FDA tests.
However, Philpott said she believes the study would find improvement if it looked at data from the past couple of years.
“If the same report were done for 2009, 2010 or this year, I think you would see big improvements,” she said. “I think we have seen drastic improvements in food companies’ abilities to respond quickly because they are preparing.”
Development and implementation of food recalls was not adequate to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply, according to the report, and the FDA often didn’t follow its own procedures, according to the report.
Some firms did not promptly initiate recalls, according to the report, but Philpott said her experience has been that produce industry firms generally respond very quickly to a positive test for pathogens.
Other problems included weak and inaccurate recall communications from companies conducting recalls, as well as incomplete recall status reports that the firms are supposed to provide the FDA.
The FDA failed to conduct inspections or obtain complete information on the contaminated products in 14 out of 17 recalls, according to the report. The agency also didn’t conduct any audit checks of consignees in five of the 17 recalls and conducted untimely and incomplete audit checks in the other 12 recalls.
The agency also failed to review the recall strategy of firms and promptly issue notification letters to firms covering the review results, according to the report.
Finally, the FDA did not witness the disposal of the products or obtain the required documentation showing that the products were disposed of in 13 of 17 recalls.
The FDA responded, saying the food recall policy has been in place since 1978, and future proposals may include using third parties to conduct some aspects of recall audits and “bolstering” guidance.
The key part of preventing foodborne illness is done with research and best practices throughout the supply chain, Philpott said.