Over the past year, the FDA has worked to enhance its food recall practices after the Office of the Inspector General released a report examining the agency’s food safety processes and policies in 2016.
One of the most significant steps that the FDA took was to put together a team of senior leaders charged with reviewing complex or unusual food safety situations and determining the proper actions to address the problem. Called the SCORE (Strategic Coordinated Oversight of Recall Execution) team, this group has overseen cases ranging from lead contamination of a dietary supplement to Salmonella contamination of powdered milk to Listeria in hummus, soft cheese and smoked fish. In addition to facilitating recalls and import alerts for the detention of products entering the United States, SCORE initiated or helped to expedite the process for suspending the registration of two food facilities, actions that blocked the facilities from distributing food to the marketplace.
The FDA is also in the process of developing a new strategic plan that outlines how to improve the agency’s management of food recalls. The plan helps to standardize how the FDA assesses a company’s recall efforts and requires staff to undergo additional training so they can properly monitor and assess the effectiveness of a recall.
In addition, the FDA is working to improve communications with consumers to ensure they have the information they need to avoid hazardous products that are the subjects of recalls and can seek assistance if they have been exposed to recalled foods. For example, the FDA is examining what situations it can help consumers get information about the stores and foodservice locations that may have sold or distributed a potentially unsafe, recalled food and what company may have supplied the product. “If we’re able to disclose this information, consumers would have an easier time knowing if they might have or have been exposed to a recalled product that could cause potential risks if it were consumed,” says FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.
Keep an eye out for more food safety and food recall policy and procedural changes from the FDA in the coming year. “Building on these early efforts, we intend to say more in early 2018 on additional policy steps we’ll take as part of a broader action plan to improve our oversight of food safety and how we implement the recall process,” Gottlieb says. “We’re committed to continuously improving our policies and practices to ensure that recalls are initiated, overseen and completed promptly and effectively to best protect consumers. Let me assure you that we will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that we carry through on this commitment.”