The produce industry is a long way from 2008, when a frustrating and ultimately incorrectly attributed salmonella outbreak decimated the blameless tomato industry.
Back then, the Food and Drug Administration appeared unconcerned about what its public statements would do to the nation’s grower-shippers and retailers.
Since then, FDA has gone out of its way to hold meetings, large and small, with industry and industry advocates, listening to business concerns and pledging to do things differently.
More recent recalls have been more limited in scope, and FDA and other government agencies have worked closer with businesses to remove potentially contaminated product, while still keeping public safety in mind.
But a recent report from the Government Accountability Office reminds us there is still work to do.
The GAO determined, among other things, that FDA needs to issue regulations or at least guidance to clarify its new food recall power, as spelled out in the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The produce industry doesn’t have a problem with this power, but the lack of communication is a step backward. FDA didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on the story, further compounding the communication problem.
The industry’s voluntary recall system seems to be working smoothly, but recalls are like the weather: they can turn unexpectedly and dramatically.
Clearer direction from FDA and hopefully government-endorsed and -subsidized recall insurance would ease the burden on produce companies who do the right thing in a recall.
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