Food labs responsible for testing imports for safety are being put under suspicion by the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce.

The Committee’s Oversight and Investigations subcommittee has sent out letters to ten food labs, suggesting they had been encouraged by importers to keep testing until the product was found to be safe.

A story on the Oversight subcommittee’s action in today’s Chicago Tribune comes complete with a picture of a San Francisco chemist–who just happens to be Chinese–working in her laboratory. 

"We’re gathering information from both the FDA and private industry about the labs almost being complicit in helping importers game the system," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-MI, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee that is investigating the labs and food companies. "Someone told us you pay for the result you want to get from the labs."

In addition to the May 1st letter to the labs, the Oversight subcommittee on May 8th wrote to 50 multi-national food companies demanding recall and import documents going back to the year 2000.

"We wish to assess the extent of microbiological and/or chemical contamination occurring during the processing of food and the extent to which controls have failed to prevent or eliminate contamination in food," the committee wrote.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

The role of food testing laboratories became an issue in February, when the CEO of one private lab, Anresco Laboratories of San Francisco, said private labs don’t always tell the FDA when tests show that imported food may be contaminated.

So far, only two of the ten food labs have cooperated with the Subcommittee.   We soon will be seeing a bunch of  lab executives rising before the Subcommittee to swear to tell the truth!

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