Spinach Cases Settle; FDA Monitoring Lax

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The producers of bacteria-tainted spinach that sicked hundreds and led to a nationwide recall last year have reportedly settled for undisclosed terms the lawsuits brought by the families of three people who died in the outbreak. However, more lawsuits are pending, some by victims who may need kidney transplants, according to one plaintiff lawyer.

For more details, see this San Francisco Chronicle article and this AP story.

The settlement announcement comes on the eve of planned testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, following unprecedented recalls of tainted food.

Meanwhile, an FDA official openly admits the agency, as presently administered, can’t keep the nation’s food supply safe, the Washington Post reports. Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., who chairs the full committee, is considering legislation to amp up the FDA’s authority, accountability and budget.

For years, the Food and Drug Administration has known about contamination problems in California and Georgia that eventually led to disease outbreaks and widespread recalls of spinach and peanut butter. But, overwhelmed with its overall responsibilities, the agency didn’t aggressively pursue the issue with these—and other—food producers, the Post article says.

FDA official Robert E. Brackett says the agency just doesn’t have the capability to police some 80,000 food producers under its present regulatory scheme. “We have to get out of the 1950s paradigm,” he says, explaining that manufacturers “have to build safety into their products rather than us chasing after them.”

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