(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee issued the following statement in light of recent reporting on new developments regarding the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) slow response to food safety issues at an Abbott infant formula plant, which caused two deaths and one hospitalization.
“In light of everything we know, it’s outrageous that the FDA failed to quickly take action to protect babies from contaminated formula,” said Senator Murray. “I’ve been demanding answers from Abbott and calling on the FDA to address its longstanding food safety failures—because families across the country deserve to know they can feed their children without fear that their formula or food might seriously sicken them. These latest revelations make this push all the more urgent—and I won’t rest until we get to the bottom of this.”
According to press reports, in a 34-page complaint sent to top FDA officials last October, the whistleblower warned of “lax practices, including regulatory violations” and highlighted employees’ efforts to cover up serious food safety issues by falsifying records. Yet, the FDA waited until December to interview the whistleblower and did not inspect the plant until January 31. On February 17, the formula was recalled.
Senator Murray and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to Abbott in February demanding answers about the company’s response to the dangerous contamination of its infant formula and called out a “troubling” preliminary FDA report on Abbott’s food safety practices. Senator Murray also recently called on the FDA to quickly address unacceptable, longstanding delays and inaction in the agency’s food safety and nutrition center, which have endangered the health and safety of families across the country. At a recent hearing with FDA officials, Senator Murray said: “I’m going to keep pressing for answers from FDA leadership on how they will end the pattern of delay and dysfunction here because FDA’s mission when it comes to ensuring our food is safe and healthy is too important to be on the agency’s back burner. Because people in Washington state depend on the FDA doing its job—quickly and carefully—every single day, in more ways than they even realize. Whether they are getting a meal, a prescription, an ultrasound, or almost anything in between, they are putting the well-being of themselves and their families in FDA’s hands.”