INSIDE WASHINGTON: Is the FDA a broken agency?

Recent Outbreaks Posted on

Every few months, the Food and Drug Administration goes into fire-brigade mode, rushing to get control over another safety crisis.


Tainted peanuts. Unsterilized syringes. Salmonella in Mexican chili peppers. A contaminated blood thinner from China that sent patients into life-threatening shock.

Some say the FDA is broken.

"Bet yourself a new hat or a fine dinner that you are going to have a scandal a month," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. "They are running around like a lot of headless chickens."

Others, even some critics, see tentative improvements. Many defenders acknowledge the FDA is struggling.

"'Broken' is the kind of word that's sort of a fighting word," said Dr. Frank Torti, the cancer researcher serving as acting FDA commissioner. "We have recognized for a long time that more is needed. Because of a lack of (legal) authorities and inadequate resources, it's really hard to do the job."

Restoring the FDA's reputation will be a major challenge for an Obama administration that strode into town promising competent government.

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