Food Tampering:

Legal Authority Adequate to Deal With Threats

HRD-91-20: Published: Oct 31, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): (1) had sufficient regulatory authority to deal with food tampering threats; (2) complied with pertinent laws and regulations in its actions against Chilean fruit, and whether its actions were consistent with actions taken on other food tampering incidents; and (3) consulted with other federal agencies and affected parties regarding food tampering threats.

GAO found that: (1) FDA had adequate authority to deal with food tampering threats; (2) FDA actions during the Chilean fruit incident were within its authority and consistent with its actions involving prior food tampering incidents; (3) although not required by law, FDA consulted with other federal and private agencies prior to taking actions against adulterated food products; (4) during the Chilean fruit incident, FDA consulted with the Department of State and Chilean organizations; (5) although not required by law, FDA considered the economic and supply impact of its actions in its decisions involving food tampering incidents; and (6) there did not appear to be any significant disruptions in the U.S. food supply as a result of the Chilean fruit incident. In addition, GAO found that, during the Chilean fruit tampering incident, FDA had sufficient authority to: (1) suspend Chilean fruit imports; (2) warn consumers not to eat Chilean fruit; (3) recommend that retailers remove the fruit from the market; (4) deny entry to an entire shipment of Chilean fruit; and (5) conduct increased inspections of arriving Chilean fruit.

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