Watch CBS News

Auditors Find FDA Recalls Too Slow To Protect Americans From Tainted Food

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- There are new concerns about food recalls in America.

A government watchdog says the Food and Drug Administration isn't moving quickly enough to protect consumers from tainted food and is leaving Americans at risk for "illness and death."

An Inspector General of the Health and Human Services issued an alert stating that the FDA's lack of effective recall procedures left some consumers at risk of illness or death.

A report by the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services isn't even complete yet, but auditors felt the findings are so alarming, they went public with them early.

Lead Auditor George Nedder said, "I'm very concerned."

Government auditors are reviewing 30 food recalls between October 2012 and May 2015.

They uncovered at least two cases where "consumers remained at risk of illness or death for several weeks after the FDA knew of potentially hazardous food."

Nedder said, "I think the time that these recalls took were problematic, absolutely."

It found that during a salmonella outbreak in 2014 linked to nut butter, it took 165 days from the date the problem product was identified, to the date of the firm's voluntary recall.

There were 14 illnesses in 11 states.

And during a listeria outbreak later that same year linked to cheese products, auditors determined a series of recalls took 81 days to complete. At least 9 people became ill including an infant who died and two pregnant women lost their fetuses.

"I mean, if you're FDA and you know of, as you say, eight people who are already ill, you know, or have gotten ill over this, how many days would you expect? How many days would America expect them to take to figure and get this product off the shelf?" Nadder said.

Dr. Steven Ostroff, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine is defending the agency.

"I think that we have traditionally done a very good job," Ostroff said.

Ostroff said thousands of recalls are handled successfully each year, but he says some cases are 'challenging'.

"For us to be able to do the trace-backs and be able to identify how this all comes together takes a fair amount of time in some instances," Ostroff maintains.

Now, the FDA is making some changes in response to the Inspector General's probe. It's setting up an internal review group that can push for quicker action on recalls when needed.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.