FDA lax in produce oversight

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported today that the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to combat foodborne illness are hampered by infrequent inspections, not enough staff and the failure to implement a program devoted to the safety of fresh produce.

The report said that inspections at produce-processing facilities are rare and that when problems are discovered, the FDA relies on the industry to correct them without oversight or follow-up. …

The report also cited previously unpublished FDA data showing that 14 people died and 10,253 were sickened in 96 outbreaks associated with fresh produce from 1996 through 2006. This summer, salmonella sickened at least 1,440 people in 43 states and Washington, D.C.

But the report found that only 3% of the FDA’s food safety budget goes toward efforts to protect fresh produce.