Further Federal Action Needed To Detect and Control Environmental Contamination of Food

CED-81-19: Published: Dec 31, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 31, 1980.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO was requested to investigate the circumstances surrounding an incident involving the contamination of chickens and other food items in several Western States by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). Because numerous Federal, State, and local investigators were checking into the situation at the time, it was decided that GAO would monitor the Federal agencies' investigations and report the corrective actions taken or planned to prevent similar incidents.

In the opinion of GAO, the Food Safety and Quality Service (FSQS) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took too long to identify and control the incident. The unnecessary delay was due primarily to the agencies' handling the incident as a routine matter. At least $3.5 million in costs as well as the risk to human health could have been avoided if the contamination had been identified and controlled earlier. FSQS and FDA, with help from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have taken actions to try to prevent similar incidents or to help them deal more effectively with any future occurrences. The three agencies also developed and published proposed regulations that would require removing all equipment containing PCB from food production and feed facilities. The Office of Technology Assessment identified several ways to improve the Federal response to the problem. Among its suggestions was that a lead agency be designated or a Federal assistance center be established to handle responses to contamination problems. The Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services (HHS), and EPA have taken a number of actions in response to previous GAO recommendations. The actions have resulted in: (1) improvements in the marketing of raw meat and poultry; (2) better regulation of pesticide exports and pesticide residues in imported food; (3) better coordination of pesticide residue testing and of contamination investigations; and (4) better control of hazardous wastes.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and HHS and the Administrator of EPA should, as part of their cooperative program to identify and control harmful substances such as PCBs, clearly define which agency will assume the leadership role under the various circumstances and conditions which are anticipated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and HHS and the Administrator of EPA should, as part of their cooperative program to identify and control harmful substances such as PCBs, clearly define which agency will assume the leadership role under the various circumstances and conditions which are anticipated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and HHS and the Administrator of EPA should, as part of their cooperative program to identify and control harmful substances such as PCBs, clearly define which agency will assume the leadership role under the various circumstances and conditions which are anticipated.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 28, 2016

Sep 26, 2016

Aug 15, 2016

Jul 26, 2016

Jul 21, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jul 7, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here