A POLITICO investigation based on more than 50 interviews finds the FDA is failing to meet American consumers' expectations on food safety and nutrition.
By the time FDA officials figured out it was spinach that was making people sick in 10 states – sending three people into kidney failure – it was too late. It was mid-November 2021 and the packaged salad’s short shelf life had passed. There was no recall. By the time FDA officials got inspectors on the ground, spinach season was over. The fields and the production facilities were empty, which made it impossible to pinpoint the source of contamination.
Whatever caused the outbreak was likely never fixed.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s been more than 11 years since Congress passed a sweeping food safety law designed to prevent this type of health risk. In that time, FDA has failed to put in place safety standards for the water used to grow fresh produce, as mandated by that law, despite knowing that water is one of the main ways fresh fruits and vegetables become contaminated with deadly pathogens. Congress has ramped up FDA funding over the past decade, but deadly outbreaks keep happening and it often takes the agency too long to respond.