Margaret Hamburg

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg on Thursday vowed to strengthen the agency’s ability to safeguard the U.S. food supply, outlining six initial steps the agency will take to clamp down on companies that violate food-safety laws.

“Again and again … I hear support for a strong FDA, an agency that protects the safety of the food supply, an agency that facilitates access to safe and effective medical products, an agency for the American public to count on,” said Hamburg. President Barack Obama tapped Hamburg, a former New York City Health Commissioner, two months ago to lead the beleaguered FDA.

In her speech to the Food and Drug Law Institute in Washington, D.C., Hamburg also voiced support for the food-safety bill the House passed last week.

“The proposed legislation would greatly enhance our ability to prevent foodborne illness through standard setting and inspections and would, among other things give the FDA mandatory recall authority for tainted foods,” she said.

The six initial steps the FDA is taking to ramp up enforcement of food-safety laws include:

• Setting post-inspection deadlines

• Taking responsible steps to speed up the warning letter process

• Working more closely with the FDA’s regulatory process

• Prioritizing follow-up on warning letters and other enforcement actions

• Being prepared to take immediate actions in response to public-health risks

• Developing and implementing a formal warning letter “close-out” process

By taking these steps, the FDA will ensure that “violative inspection results are taken seriously, that warning letters and enforcement actions occur in a timely manner and that steps are taken to protect consumers in cases where immediate enforcement is not possible,” said Hamburg.

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