Dr. Scott Gottlieb addressed questions from US Senators serving on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies about the most recent outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce affecting at least 53 people in 16 states. Dr. Gottlieb said, "Its an ongoing investigation and FDA has isolated it to a particular region in Arizona where we believe it is coming from. FDA has information that suggests certain famrs that it may be coming from. But right now we have it isolated to a particular grower. So, we have put out particular guidance that consumers should avoid romaine lettuce unless they can be certain that it did not come from Yuma, Arizona."
Dr. Gottlieb also addressed adequate funding for the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FY 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Bill (Omnibus) enacted March 22 includes $16 million in additional funding (over FY 2017) for FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and Office of Regulatory Affairs, totaling $1.04 billion. These additional funds should allow FDA to provide adequate training for Food Safety Modernization Act inspectors.
Gottlieb was pressed about whether or not FDA could really implement FSMA well without asking for additional money. He responded, "Resources help! Policy helps too. FDA has taken some really aggressive steps recently to try to increase the level of our footprint to carry out our mission. We've used mandatory recall authority for the first time and committed to disclose more information related to recalls. But, there is no question we can do more with more resources."