FDA reverses plan to close field labs

Aug 20, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 3 days ago cancelled its plan to close seven of its field laboratories, media outlets reported.

In proposing the closures, which would have shuttered half of the field labs, FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach had said that the reorganization would enhance the agency's ability to assess and rank risks and better mobilize its inspection, enforcement, and analytical resources, according to previous news reports.

However, in early August the FDA announced it was postponing the plan to allow the agency to hear the recommendations of President Bush's newly appointed import safety working group. The panel was created to explore recent food contamination and product safety problems linked to imported goods.

Margaret Glavin, the FDA's deputy regulatory affairs commissioner, told the agency's employees in an Aug 17 e-mail that the lab reorganization plan would be cancelled to provide a "fresh look" at the FDA's challenges and plans for addressing them, the Associated Press (AP) reported Aug 17.

Some lawmakers questioned how consolidating the labs could improve safety or contain costs. Other groups opposing the plan included FDA lab employees who testified before Congress, as well as the union that represents a good portion of the FDA's employees, the AP report said.

An amendment blocking federal money for the lab closings was placed in a budget bill, the Detroit Free Press reported 3 days ago.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who has opposed the lab closures, said in a statement released to the Free Press that the FDA's plan was "ill conceived."

"As concerns about food safety mount, the FDA's proposal to close its field labs, merge its district offices, and concentrate more power in Washington represented exactly the wrong approach," he said in the statement.

See also:

Aug 3 CIDRAP News story "FDA suspends plan to close field labs"

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