February 13, 2009
The declaration of bankruptcy today by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) underlines the need for Congress to overhaul the FDA to make it more effective and increase the penalties FDA can impose to deter behavior that endangers public health.
“It is unacceptable for corporations to put consumers’ health at risk, and then simply declare bankruptcy and go out of business when they get caught,” noted Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. “We must have an FDA that can oversee food processors so that unscrupulous behavior can be detected, prevented and deterred.”
“PCA’s declaration of bankruptcy will, among other things, shield it from liability suits filed by consumers who became sick or whose loved ones died as a result of eating PCA’s peanut products,” added Halloran. “If we are going to have legal deterrents against other companies shipping tainted products, the government must be able to hold corporate officials responsible for their actions. Currently, shipping tainted products is only a misdemeanor under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. The Act must be revised so that there are stronger penalties.”
PCA operated a plant with unsanitary conditions and ignored test data that showed its peanut products contained salmonella, according to emails and testimony released at a Congressional hearing this week.
“FDA must be given the power and budget it needs to prevent companies from operating the way PCA did. Congress should require the FDA to visit every food processor at least once a year and it should require all such facilities to register with the FDA and pay a registration fee that will offset the cost of increased inspections,” concluded Halloran.