While the U.S. has already seen a number of voluntary recalls this year, the Food and Drug Administration has often dragged its feet when it comes to pulling contaminated products from the shelves, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
In a recent investigation conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, the inspector general’s office found that the FDA had put consumers’ lives in danger by prolonging certain probes. In one case from 2014, peanut butter and almond products from nSpired Natural Foods Inc. were voluntarily recalled 165 days after the administration had found evidence of salmonella at one of the company’s plants.
“Months and weeks when peoples' lives are on the line?" George Nedder, the lead investigator from the Health Department, said in an interview with the AP. "It needs to be done faster.”
The Health Department called for "immediate attention" to the problem through the implementation of a clear set of procedures, but the news is particularly surprising since the FDA was given new authority to force recalls in 2011. Recent developments in technology, like whole genome sequencing, have also allowed the agency to pinpoint the source of an outbreak like never before.
Though the FDA argues that the examples highlighted by the internal watchdog are “outliers,” the administration's deputy commissioner, Stephen Ostroff, said slow-moving cases will now be reviewed on a weekly basis.
“That way we will be able to take action much more quickly in circumstances where there seems to be some reluctance at the firm," Ostroff told the AP.
In May, hundreds of frozen-food products were recalled from grocery stores like Trader Joe’s due to a listeria outbreak, and earlier this month General Mills recalled 10 million pounds of flour over E. coli concerns.