The agency acknowledged the need for change but said it couldn’t have prevented illnesses linked to peanut butter and spinach.

Elizabeth Williamson of the Washington Post wrote an interesting article about what FDA may have know and if they chose to ignore problems or simply did not have the manpower or mandate to do anything about it.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history, documents and interviews show.  Overwhelmed by huge growth in the number of food processors and imports, however, the agency took only limited steps to address the problems and relied on producers to police themselves, the documents show.  FDA officials conceded that its system needs to be overhauled but denied that the agency could have done anything to prevent either contamination episode.

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce committee will hold a hearing into the unprecedented spate of recalls, including the recent contamination of pet food with melamine.  “This administration does not like regulation, this administration does not like spending money, and it has a hostility toward government. The poisonous result is that a program like the FDA is going to suffer at every turn of the road,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the panel, who is considering legislation to boost the agency’s accountability, regulatory authority and budget.

It will be an interesting hearing.