It was the year of the recall, and that meant the Food and Drug Administration was busy in 2007.
USA Today reported that the FDA blocked imports of 11 types of questionable foods and drugs in 2007, which is a much higher number compared to recent years. In the previous two years combined, the paper explains, the FDA added just six alerts that remain in effect, according to FDA data. There are about 270 FDA import alerts in effect, and some are more than 20 years old.
When the organization administers an import alert, the product is effectively banned from the U.S. until it is tested and shown to be safe. The FDA Website explains: "All imported products are required to meet the same standards as domestic goods. Imported foods must be pure, wholesome, safe to eat, and produced under sanitary conditions; drugs and devices must be safe and effective; cosmetics must be safe and made from approved ingredients; radiation-emitting devices must meet established standards; and all products must contain informative and truthful labeling in English."
Three alerts added last year covered products from China: vegetable proteins such as wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate, some toothpaste, and five types of farm-raised fish, including catfish, shrimp, and eel products. Bottled water from three firms in Armenia were slapped with import alerts after tests showed the presence of high levels of arsenic in the products. You can find more details on import alerts on the FDA Website.
These alerts can have a big effect on U.S. products. Steve Pickman of MGP Ingredients, a domestic producer, said that demand for U.S. wheat gluten, a product used in many foods, including bread, increased 30% since April when the FDA restricted imports of Chinese vegetable proteins.
An FDA attorney told USA Today that the FDA's actions may show that the agency is responding to pressure to improve food safety. Let's hope so.
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