Group calls for mandatory recalls, single food agency

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON ― Consumers Union, the consumer group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine, is calling for mandatory recall authority for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) and the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.), and a single food agency.

On Sept. 29, it was announced that 21 million lbs of ground beef might be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. This is several months’ worth of meat production, which is supposed to be inspected daily by the U.S.D.A., the group charged.

"The system is broken," said Jean Halloran, Consumer Union’s director of food policy initiatives. “Recalls and inspections have failed miserably., Clearly we need a single food agency with the tools, resources and leadership to focus on one clear mission ― food safety.”

In a national Consumers Union poll in 2004, 97% of respondents agreed the federal government should have mandatory recall authority. Mandatory recall authority is lacking for both the U.S.D.A. and the F.D.A.

"Both the F.D.A. and the U.S.D.A. need mandatory recall authority," Ms. Halloran said. "The safety of our food should not be dependent on voluntary action by companies."

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