At a July 17 hearing of the House energy and commerce oversight subcommittee, Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., asked four current food-safety officials with the Food and Drug Administration to rate, on a scale of one to 10, the quality of the FDA’s food-safety inspections. The FDA employees’ responses ranged from two to five.
Apparently this didn’t go down well with the Associate Commissioner, Margaret Glavin. Two days after the testimony, she wrote an office-wide e-mail saying she was “deeply saddened” by the ratings, which she considered inaccurate.
From her e-mail (also in the Slate Article):
One panel of witnesses was asked to rate FDA’s level of performance on a scale of one to ten, with then being the highest. All but one of the panelists rated at a five or below. I am deeply saddened by this assessment because I know it is not an accurate reflection of ORA’s (Office of Regulatory Affairs) performance, and I appreciate how dedicated you are and how hard you work each and every day to accomplish our mission to protect Americans. I know that many of you were also disappointed, and perhaps even angry, at this erroneous assessment.
First things first – As Law for Food has pointed out, this isn’t an erroneous assessment. The Center for Disease control has stated on the record that foodborne illness is increasing. This is not the sort of situation that gives the FDA (or the USDA for the matter) a passing grade.
More interesting is the fact that Glavin’s e-mail may have been illegal.
Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, said the electronic note violated agency policy and regulations against retaliation _ and perhaps even a federal law that prohibits interfering with the rights of federal employees to give Congress information. They asked FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach to disavow the e-mail, discipline Glavin and evaluate her future as head of the agency’s field staff. In a later statement, Stupak said she should be removed.
For anyone who has followed this administration’s actions in many departments, Glavin’s actions are par for the course. But the facts are clear to anyone who sees them. Food borne illnesses are up, food recalls are becoming more prevalent, and only 1 percent of all food imports are checked due to lack of resources. The FDA’s response? They want to close up seven of their thirteen labs.
So sorry Ms. Glavin, when something sounds like a duck, smells like a duck, and looks like a duck, then there’s no doubt it’s a duck – a small, inefficient, underfunded duck. Deal with it.