Oct 4, 2010
05:05 PMThe Wind Machine
The Food in FDA
Along with Mark Powers of our staff, I visited the White Oak Campus of the Food and Drug Administration on September 16. White Oak is in Maryland on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. On our way to it, we passed the Soldiers’ Home, where President Lincoln spent a good deal of time escaping the summer heat that enveloped the lower-in-elevation White House, which is located some three miles distant. It was at the White House in 1862 that Willie Lincoln, 11, died, after consuming contaminated drinking water.
Food safety was our reason for our going to White Oak on the 16th. After clearing security, we met there with Murray Lumpkin, FDA’s deputy commissioner for international programs and six of his colleagues. Over the course of the next ninety minutes, we exchanged ideas about FDA’s expanded role in ensuring the safety of imported produce and the practical problems to be encountered in trying to supervise production practices around the world. We brought up the unintended, but real, issue of retaliation by other countries in terms of their own food safety visits to United States farms and orchards.
At departure, it was clear that FDA sees, understandably, its mission as keeping the domestic food supply safe for our citizens. While acknowledging it is not a trade promotion group, we did provide reasons why FDA also needs to be aware of international trade impacts when implementing its primary mission. I left the meeting wondering how a relatively small staff (fewer than one hundred) at FDA directly under Dr. Lumpkin could successfully handle all the complex international food safety issues in light of the magnitude and speed with which fresh produce now crosses political borders. But, I also left confident that—in Dr. Lumpkin—our country has a very smart, capable, and dedicated public servant.