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USA Today has a story this morning that is likely to make a lot of consumers stop and take notice:

“SAN FRANCISCO - About 150 imported food shipments a month are tested at a laboratory here for contaminants consumers shouldn't eat, like mercury in swordfish, salmonella in shrimp and filth in mushrooms.

“At least 10% of the time, the lab finds the shipments contaminated, says David Eisenberg, chairman of Anresco Labs.

“Most of the time, the lab tells no one but the importer who's paying for the test, Eisenberg says. The Food and Drug Administration is none the wiser.

The practice has been going on for years, at Anresco and other labs that test imported food. The FDA gets the favorable test results, but failing ones aren't sent to the FDA if importers tell labs not to send them, five lab operators told USA TODAY.

“This is not news to the FDA, which regulates most of the imported foods consumers eat. There is no regulation requiring labs to send all tests to the agency. The FDA proposed that in 2004 but never followed through.”

KC's View:

Somehow, this seems like a fundamental problem in the food safety system, because it is designed to protect the importers and not the consumer. The labs are working for the importers, and the apparent threat always hanging over the labs is that they report failed shipments, certain importers will take their business elsewhere to less scrupulous lab facilities.

And here’s another astounding piece of information. USA Today reports that with all the dithering in Washington, DC, about food safety, nobody has proposed closing this hole in the system.