This week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and her colleagues on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will be discussing legislation that will give the Food and Drug Association the authority to regulate tobacco products. This Senate Bill 625 could have a deadly effect on the FDA, which based on its recent performance, isn't capable of managing its current responsibilities.
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Despite a clear mandate and a $2 billion budget, the FDA has proven itself unable to avoid or correct in a timely fashion nationwide outbreaks of E. coli contamination of lettuce and spinach, chemical poisoning of pet food and deaths due to dangerous drugs previously approved by this very same agency.
The FDA's mandate calls for it to ensure the safety of the nation's entire food supply, as well as 11,000 drugs in the marketplace. The agency is overwhelmed and is buckling under the strain. The FDA told Congress it needs more funding, more personnel and more authority to fulfill the currently defined mission.
Dr. David Kessler, who led the agency from 1990-97, testified, "Simply put, our food safety system in this country is broken. We have no structure for preventing food-borne illnesses."
With the FDA in such obvious crisis, it is irresponsible for some members of Congress to be promoting legislation that would further burden the agency with regulatory responsibility for the massive tobacco industry. Murkowski should leave the FDA charter as is and find a way to make the FDA an effective guarantor of food and drug safety.
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