Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Federal investigators concluded the Food and Drug Administration takes too long to remove contaminated and unsafe products from the shelf.
The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report Tuesday, after examining 30 of 1,557 food recalls between 2012 and 2015 and found the FDA didn't always evaluate health hazards and issue recalls in a timely manner.
"Recalls were not always initiated promptly because FDA does not have adequate procedures to ensure that firms take prompt and effective action in initiating voluntary food recalls," the report stated.
The FDA oversees recalls of all food except meat and poultry and was given authority to issue a mandatory recall when a company fails to voluntarily recall unsafe food after being asked to do so under the he Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011.
The report found that companies took an average of 57 days to recall items after the FDA was made aware of potential hazards and one recall didn't begin for 303 days.
It also noted the agency took 165 days to start a recall of nut butters possibly tainted with salmonella, 151 days to recall hazelnuts also suspected of salmonella contamination, 82 days to recall frozen spinach believed to contain high levels of cadmium and 27 days to recall cooked duck eggs carrying bacteria responsible fr botulism.
"Each and every day is important, because every day the product remains on the shelf, consumers are potentially at risk for serious illness or death," George Nedder, an assistant regional inspector general at Health and Human Services said.
The report noted several failings including " deficiencies in FDA's oversight of recall initiation, monitoring of recalls" and collecting and tracking recall data.
The inspector general recommended FDA use its Strategic Coordinated Oversight of Recall Execution initiative to "establish set timeframes, expedite decision-making and move recall cases forward, and improve electronic recall data."
FDA agreed with the assessments made in the report and said it will consider the results of the review as it "continues to operate the SCORE team."
"Our ability to affect a recall in a timely fashion is a core consumer protection function of the FDA," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. "If we're not executing that well, then we're not fulfilling our mandate."