Blue Bell listeria outbreak exposes limitation of FDA’s food inspection program
Food facilities are not expected to report to FDA incidences of contamination unless they suspect that the contaminated food has entered distribution. Hence most food contamination found during manufacture are not reported to the FDA. Recent outbreak of listeria contamination at Blue Bells plants exposed this gap between expectation from and the reality of enforcement by FDA. FDA officials were never told about the numerous listeria and other contamination at the Blue Bell Creameries manufacturing facility. Only once there was a major outbreak, did the company made the news public and informed FDA. FDA investigation found this to be an ongoing problem at the facility. This is not the first time, FDA was the last to know of such incidences; In the last year, there have been 14 other such outbreaks. FDA is aware of these limitations in the law. The final version of the Food Safety rules, expected later this year will attempt to close this loophole and force companies to be more transparent regarding incidences of contamination and give FDA more authority to audit food manufacturing facilities. Food facilities should be ready to get audited by FDA and demonstrate compliance with good manufacturing practices soon as it is certain that FDA inspections of food facilities will increase in the near future.
FDA’s Outbreak Incidence page
The Washington Post
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