The Food and Drug Administration plans to roll out new guidelines designed to get recall information to consumers faster, with a focus on working with retailers and suppliers, including processor and growers.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said those guidelines — partly in response to a government report faulting the agency for failing to take action against companies with significant inspection violations — will be coming out in the next six months. He announced the plans in a Dec. 26 statement.

“The FDA has authority to act in a variety of ways when it is made aware of an unsafe food product,” Gottlieb said in the release. “But often the fastest and most efficient way to ensure unsafe foods are recalled quickly is by working directly with the involved companies while simultaneously providing the accurate information that they can act upon.”

Gottlieb said most companies recall products when an unsafe food is detected, or cooperate when an outbreak investigation leads back to them. The Food Safety Modernization Act gives the FDA authority to force recalls if companies refuse to do so. Gottlieb said the new guidelines will be part of a broader plan at the agency to improve oversight of food safety and how to implement the recall process.

Gottlieb’s statement did not directly address the lack of action in some cases against companies with significant food safety violations found during inspections, detailed in a recent Office of the Inspector General report.

That report said the FDA should improve how it handles inspections to ensure better use of resources, act against companies with significant violations (and act faster), and conduct timely follow up to ensure changes are made at those facilities.

Gottlieb said the FDA had addressed many of the report’s findings after a draft was released in 2016.

A newer initiative called the SCORE (Strategic Coordinated Oversight of Recall Execution) team meets regularly to discuss complex or unusual food safety situations, resulting in improved responses in specific cases. The FDA completed a comprehensive review of recalls in 2016, according to the release, resulting in a new strategic plan to improve recall management.

“I take these obligations very seriously,” Gottlieb said in the release. “Making sure the FDA has effective recall practices in place, and that we take immediate action to address unsafe foods, are high priorities of mine. Our recall authorities — and how we deploy them — are a cornerstone of our vital consumer protection mission.”

 

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