The FDA is now suggesting that it work with other countries to assemble "global coalitions of regulators dedicated to building and strengthening the product safety net around the world," in the words of a report issued this week.
From the report:
“Global production of FDA-regulated goods has exploded over the past ten years. In addition to an increase in imported finished products, manufacturers increasingly use imported materials and ingredients in their U.S. production facilities, making the distinction between domestic and imported products obsolete,” said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "There has been a perfect storm - more products, more manufacturers, more countries and more access. A dramatic change in strategy must be implemented."
The FDA report calls for the agency to transform the way it conducts business and to act globally in order to promote and protect the health of U.S. consumers. Highlights of the report include four key elements needed to make the change:
1. The FDA will partner with its counterparts worldwide to create global coalitions of regulators focused on ensuring and improving global product safety and quality.
2. The coalitions of regulators will develop international data information systems and networks and increase the regular and proactive sharing of data and regulatory resources across world markets.
3. The FDA will build in additional information gathering and analysis capabilities with an increased focus on risk analytics and information technology.
4. The FDA increasingly will leverage the efforts of public and private third parties and industry and allocate FDA resources based on risk.
"FDA regulated imports have quadrupled since 2000,” Hamburg said. "The FDA and our global regulatory partners recognize this new reality and realize we must work proactively and collaboratively to address the challenges we face. The FDA must further collaborate and leverage in order to close the gap between our import levels and our regulatory resources. This report is an important step in ensuring we are able to fulfill our critical public health mission."
From where I sit, having reviewed the report, it's clear that Congress needs to double the inspection budget, add trained staff, and increase penalties. Cutting the budget threatens the safety of the food we eat and the pills that consumers take.