FDA inspectors not keeping pace with food imports

Source: Brad Racino, The Washington Post

Inside the giant warehouse, past the labyrinth of cubicles and corner offices, behind the security door marked “Authorized Personnel Only,” the smell isn’t all that bad today. “Sometimes it’s unbearable,” said Denise Williams, a supervisor in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Import Operations here in Southern California. The warehouse is one of several in the Los Angeles district where Williams and FDA investigators spend their days sorting and inspecting thousands upon thousands of boxes that fill an area larger than four football fields. The FDA reported that in 2010 it refused nearly 16,000 food-related shipments out of the more than 10 million that arrived at more than 320 U.S. ports. “If it comes in here and it’s bad,” said Williams, “we’re gonna get ’em.” Except when they don’t. The FDA admits it is simply not up to the task of ensuring the safety of food imports, which are entering this country in ever-growing numbers. The FDA expects 24 million shipments of FDA-regulated goods to pass through the nation’s ports of entry this year, up from 6 million a decade ago.

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