FDA stands for Food and Drug Administration. While most Americans view the FDA as the country’s drug enforcement arm, it does so much more and its responsibilities are wide and varied. It deals with human and animal food, drugs, medical devices, radiation emitting devices, vaccines, blood and biologics, cosmetics, and tobacco. The majority of what the FDA does do is not what we think it spends its time on.
The FDA reported that for the first 3 months of 2013, it has recalled 46 human food products. That is 3 times the number of animal & veterinary food products it recalled and 4+ times more than the drugs it has recalled. Further, it is 23 times higher than the medical devices it has recalled.
FDA RECALLS AND WITHDRAWALS January 1, 2003 – March 26, 2013
02 MEDICAL DEVICES
0 RADIATION-EMITTING PRODUCTS
0 BLOOD & BIOLOGICS
14 ANIMAL & VETERINARY
Clearly, each of these responsibilities it important for human health and safety, save and except the animal & veterinary arm. It is amazing that the FDA has to devote so much time, energy and resources to making sure our food supply is safe, not to mention the number of recalls it has to initiate to keep it that way. By simple extrapolation, it could be expected that by the end of 2013, the FDA will have recalled 184 food products, 40 drugs, 8 medical devices and 56 animal & veterinary products. No one should believe that this means that drugs are safer than food. Rest assured that they are not. Remember that all drugs have side effects. The FDA gets involved when it receives information that a particular drug is causing side effects not disclosed to the FDA in the approval or post-approval process, or when the reports of know side effects are more than represented by the drug’s manufacturer.
Let’s put this into perspective:
1. The FDA issued 10 recalls and withdrawals in the first 3 months of 2013.
2. The FDA issued 13 safety alerts for human medical products and 12 for medical devices for that same period.
3. The FDA has taken some action 35 times in 2013 on drugs and/or devices. That is only 5 actions less than it took on food products.
4. The FDA likely watches a hundred thousand more food products than drugs and devices.
5. The numbers of recalls, withdrawals and safety alerts on drugs and devices is far greater than any other action the FDA takes on it other areas of responsibility.
The importance of each of the FDA’s functions cannot be overstated in its responsibility for protecting and advancing public health.