I watched the brief opening statement of former FDA official Mr. William Hubbard today. He emphasized the funding issue, though he called it "capacity." When he was at the FDA there were 70,000 registered food establishments and that the FDA conducted 35,000 annual inspections. Today there are 150,000 establishments and 7,000 annual inspections. Those inspections are concentrated on the 6,000 "high risk" establishments.
The problem is clear, but it is also worse than these numbers indicate. First, the FDA inspections don't just cover food safety. They cover labeling, including nutrition labeling, and some other matters, depending on the product. These issues can be complex and time-consuming. Second, many of these inspections are conducted by state officials under contract in may states. In Michigan, our inspectors have been excellent. Perhaps they aren't as good in other states. In any case, there will be inconsistency between states.
Hubbard's second point is that the prevention regime used for USDA facilities (such as much higher risk meat plants) should be extended to food facilities. That is sensible, but has a drawback I'll come back to in another post.
His third point was that FDA's recall authority needs to be enhanced. I still need to be convinced.
But all things considered, an excellent starting point for reform.