Yesterday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration flexed its muscle and suspended food facility registration of Sunland Inc., utilizing brand new authority under the Food Safety & Modernization Act to kick crap-ass food manufacturers like Sunland to the curb. For the first time since the law passed the FDA sent a message to American manufacturers that unless the food they produce are safe they are going to shut your business down.
Sunland Inc., a producer of nuts, and nut and seed spreads was responsible for causing the recall of multitude of nut products and products containing their nuts. Among the countless Sunland recalls, four unlucky pet products were caught in the massive dirty nut melee: Dogsbutter, Yoghund Banana and Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt Dog Treats, Sleek And Sassy Bird And Small Animal Foods, and Raw and Roasted In-Shell Peanuts and Seed Mixes were found contaminated with Salmonella.
While it’s impressive to see the FDA flex its muscles, I only wish they would spend a little more time at the gym because, while the FDA has the legal authority to do allot more, they just aren’t exercising their authority to do so. It’s sort of like a body builder on steroids, looks good on the outside, but in reality he’s impotent and probably crazy to boot.
Lunacy and impotence come to mind when I try to imagine the reason the FDA did not act after visiting the five Chinese pet treat plants in late March when the Chinese government refused to allow the FDA to take samples of the problematic products for testing in the US. Right there, that was a clear violation of Section 306 of the FSMA (see below for details).
Let’s compare the Sunland situation with the imported pet treats scandal for a minute: Take Sunland, well those idiots had it coming, no doubt, on that score. If a company can’t get their manufacturing shit together in the ten years they were watched by the FDA, they deserve to be taken down. It’s only unfortunate it didn’t, or couldn’t, have happened sooner. The human cost: 40 something people sick or in hospital. The economic cost to the manufacturers who bought Sunland’s gross bird-poop splattered nuts: untold millions, no doubt.
Now compare the imported jerky treats from China debacle: 360 dead dogs + one cat, 2,200 reported illnesses. The FDA began investigating the chicken jerky treat (CJT) issue about five years ago. OK, I admit dealing with China is allot more terrifying than dealing with dimwits at Sunland, but the FDA, ostensibly, has been waiting for the opportunity to have a legal reason to stop the imported CJTs.
Yet when investigators went to China and found they weren’t willing to coöperate with the inspection, the FDA had the legal authority to refuse entry of the goods into the US. Slam dunk, right? Well, not so fast. We can only hypothesis that the US and China have a relationship they wish to maintain.
A mini tour of the FSMA helps to understand the power the FDA has but didn’t use during the investigation in China. Section 306 of the FSMA relates to the inspection of foreign food facilities. When the FDA inspectors showed up at the plants in China, a key element of any inspection is the ability to test the goods for contamination in labs in the US, yet Chinese authorities did not permit the FDA to do so. According to Sec. 306 treats made at those five plants associated with the illness and death of over 2,560 American pets should have been refused admission into the US. The FDA is planning another trip to chicken processing plants in China this year, but I have to ask – why bother?
SEC. 306. INSPECTION OF FOREIGN FOOD FACILITIES.
“(b) Effect of Inability To Inspect.–Notwithstanding any other provision of law, food shall be refused admission into the United States if it is from a foreign factory, warehouse, or other establishment of which the owner, operator, or agent in charge, or the government of the foreign country, refuses to permit entry of United States inspectors or other individuals duly designated by the Secretary, upon request, to inspect such factory, warehouse, or other establishment. For purposes of this subsection, such an owner, operator, or agent in charge shall be considered to have refused an inspection if such owner, operator, or agent in charge does not permit an inspection of a factory, warehouse, or other establishment during the 24-hour period after such request is submitted, or after such other time period, as agreed upon by the Secretary and the foreign factory, warehouse, or other establishment.”.
Read the entire text of the FSMA here.
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