United States senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is asking the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase its efforts to deal with unsanitary conditions in food facilities. Citing recent FDA Food Safety Warning letters that warn facilities to remedy violations relating to inadequate hygienic practices, infestations of insects and rodents, Senator Schumer laid forth a three step plan to ramp up oversight.
A press release by Senator Schumer stated that the lack of transparency for restaurants and consumers regarding these issues is “equally disturbing [as] the conditions themselves.” His main concern is that consumers and restaurant owners may purchase, serve, and consume food from a food processing facility has been cited for violations because of a lack of awareness of the violations.
Senator Schumer’s three part plan requests that the FDA:
- increase the regularity of inspections of all food facilities and processing sites;
- increase fees for violations, and in particular for repeat violations, to “deter disgusting conditions” and
- create an easily searchable database to increase transparency on violations for restaurant owners and consumers.
FDA currently inspects “high risk” food facilities once every three years and other facilities less often. The agency also publishes its warning letters, which we regularly summarize in this newsletter, on their website. However, the warning letters are not published concurrently with FDA’s efforts to bring a facility back into compliance.