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President should appoint FDA Commissioner now

January 21, 2008

As Peanut Butter Recalls Widen, Consumers Union Calls on President to Appoint FDA Commissioner, Says FDA is “Adrift”

Yonkers, N.Y. —With peanut butter recalls widening, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, today called on President Obama to appoint a new FDA Commissioner as soon as possible to address peanut butter contamination and a growing list of other food safety problems. Some 125 peanut products have been recalled and more recalls are expected, according to FDA. This outbreak has been linked to 486 illnesses and six deaths so far. FDA advised consumers not to consume peanut products like ice cream and crackers while its investigation continues , unless the manufacturer indicates they are safe.
“FDA must inspect food production facilities more frequently than once every ten years on average, especially when a problem is identified in an industry,” stated Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. FDA stated that it relies on state regulators to inspect facilities in Georgia.
Another peanut butter plant, operated by ConAgra, was the source of a salmonella outbreak two years ago, leading to a massive recall of Peter Pan and other brands. “When a plane crashes, we have a massive investigation as to how it happened, so that the problem can be corrected. Why didn’t FDA intensify its supervision of peanut butter manufacturers after the problem in the ConAgra plant two years ago?” Halloran asks.
“With only an Acting Commissioner in charge, the FDA is now adrift. Given the seriousness of the problem—people’s lives are at stake—President Obama must appoint a new FDA Commissioner as soon as possible who can begin to assert strong leadership on food safety. We need quick action not just on peanut butter, but melamine in infant formula, BPA in baby bottles and canned food linings, and other critical food safety issues,” Halloran states.

Media contact:
David Butler, Consumers Union, butlda@consumer.org
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers