Salvaged Food:

Lessons Learned from the Americold Fire

RCED-95-76: Published: Mar 8, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 1995.


John W. Harman
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the events surrounding a fire at a food storage warehouse in Kansas, focusing on the: (1) disposition of food salvaged from the facility; and (2) lessons learned from the incident that could be used to improve regulation of the food salvaging industry.

GAO found that: (1) over half of the affected food was destroyed and the remaining 102 million pounds of food was released to the public after Kansas determined its salvageability; (2) about 3.7 million pounds of food was shipped to a salvager on the basis of laboratory results furnished by a consultant who was under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); (3) although no illnesses were attributed to the food salvaged from the Kansas fire, potential public health risks were increased by shortcomings in FDA regulation of salvaged food; (4) FDA did not share important information with Kansas regarding its past problems with the consultant and his laboratories; and (5) FDA did not provide Kansas with guidance on food sampling controls that would have been useful in its oversight of the salvaging.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: FDA should more actively assist states in managing food salvaging operations following major disasters. At a minimum, FDA should ensure that: (1) the information it has about a private food testing laboratories and key personnel is communicated to state officials responsible for monitoring food salvaging operations after a major disaster; and (2) these state officials are made aware of FDA guidance for maintaining the integrity of the food sampling process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: Food and Drug Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FDA disagrees with the conclusions and recommendations in the report and has no plans to implement this recommendation. Therefore, GAO recommends that this be closed.

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