GAO Considers Ways to Compensate the Food Industry for "Erroneous" Recalls
Yesterday, GAO reported the findings of its investigation into, among other things, mechanisms available to FDA to decrease the likelihood of unnecessary food recalls. In an unusual twist to the food safety debate, GAO looked at possible ways to compensate manufacturers in the event of an erroneously ordered food recall or an erroneous food advisory.
One option that GAO considered is government-subsidized insurance against erroneous food recalls. Another is one-time acts of Congress, or private laws, to address specific events. Other potential solutions are government-funded loans for producers affected by an erroneous recall, and non-monetary methods "such as a government promotional campaign or a public statement acknowledging an error recalling a product."
GAO notes that any compensation system faces the threshold challenge of determining what constitutes an "error." GAO cites the recent spinach recall, in which the contagion was ultimately traced to a specific farm but the recall covered all bagged spinach, as one example of a recall that industry thought was over-broad but that FDA thought was prudent. GAO also cites the tomato e.coli outbreak, in which epidemiologists identified tomatos but later confirmed that serrano and jalapeno peppers could also be a source, as an example of an "error."
GAO's report comes as food advocates complain that the Obama Administration is holding up regulations to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, particularly the provisions regarding foreign importers and recall procedures.
Read the full report here.