Lawmakers also criticized the Food and Drug Administration's plan to close half of its laboratories. They called that idea misguided and questioned whether it would save money and enhance the agency's ability to target unsafe food, as FDA commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said it would.
The agency says consolidating will be more efficient but critics on Capitol Hill worry it will cause a huge brain drain, at the very worst time, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.
"FDA's ill-conceived decision to close seven of its 13 laboratories likely would expose American consumers to even more danger from unsafe foods, particularly imports," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., at a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the FDA and food safety.
The FDA's ability to police the nation's food supply has come under withering criticism from Congress and others amid a string of high-profile cases of foodborne illness, including E. coli-tainted spinach and salmonella-contaminated peanut butter and snack foods, and contaminated and imports from China.
An Energy and Commerce Committee investigation found the FDA now has little ability to police imports. In San Francisco, for example, the FDA's staff can conduct only a cursory review of imports, generally dedicating just 30 seconds to each shipment as it flashes by on a computer screen, according to investigators.
Investigators says the FDA port reviewers they observed were totally overwhelmed, each tracking 600 food shipments and 300 medical device shipments a day, reports Cordes.
Even when products are flagged by the FDA, importers have learned to game the system, investigators said. For example, the FDA relies on results obtained from private labs before clearing
and releasing suspect imports, including Chinese farmed seafood. But those labs produce results driven by financial rather than scientific concerns, investigators told the subcommittee.
Investigative counsel Kevin Barstow said he was told by an unnamed FDA deputy lab director that "none of the test results he's seen are completely accurate."
"The words he used were 'not good' and 'spooky,"' Barstow told the subcommittee.
Importers also can reduce the level of scrutiny by having their products test negative five consecutive times, according to a summary of the investigators' findings. Since some large fish, including tuna, can be flagged for high mercury levels, 바카라사이트
importers will arrange to have five lots of smaller fish — generally younger and with comparatively less mercury — tested to obtain an all-clear from the FDA, according to the findings. Once the monitoring decreases, the importers can then resume bringing in larger fish that otherwise might not pass muster
r>"You're saying the importers know how to maneuver around the FDA?" asked Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa
r>"Yes," committee senior investigator David Nelson said.