If like me you hailed the FDA's new power to force a recall on contaminated food for humans and pets as marking a revolution in food safety, you might want to hold off before throwing the confetti.
From food safety watchdog Marion Nestle -- pretty much the only human health writer who understood the implications of the 2007 pet food recall -- at her Food Politics blog, news that Del Monte is suing the FDA and the state of Oregon for a recall the agency ordered last March. You can review the testing epidemiology and details of the lawsuits in her post, but if nothing else, take her warning to heart:
Public health agencies doing their jobs to protect the public now have to defend against lawsuits like this? Putative cause is no longer enough to order recalls?
U.S. courts are not famous for understanding epidemiology or other aspects of public health and I’m wondering what effect this suit will have on public protection against foodborne illness. What standard of proof will the courts require?
Lawsuits are chilling. Congress has just granted the FDA the authority to order recalls. Food producers were not happy about that provision. This is one way to get around Congress and the FDA.
Read the rest here. Then, you know, weep and rend your garments and stuff. Because the FDA is already a timid agency, and the last thing they need is additional chilling.
Photo: Marion Nestle, right, and me in San Francisco in 2009.