Friday, May 8, 2015

Your Listeria Hysteria

I haven't paid attention to the Blue Bell listeria story. Your letter was the first I heard of it.

You imagine my response that the "whole affair proves the the incompetence of the FDA for its failure to intervene sooner." There's no reason for me to say that when you have proved it yourself.

You suggest the reason the FDA has been incompetent because "Of course the relentless downward pressure on the FDA's budget might have something to do with that." I love the "of course." Unfortunately for your argument the FDA budget has gone up, substantially, over the past 15 years.

This from the FY2000 budget submission:

That's about a 9% compound annual growth rate through Republican and Democratic administrations and congresses. (The FDA gets user fees. Program level funds reflects the amounts approved by Congress plus the user fees).  It's also the wrong line item to look at since the FDA includes the drug approval process which is substantial. But you chose the metric, not me.

There's no reason for you to get snarky imaging what I'm going to say. I still believe the markets punish companies for their misbehavior. I still believe that punishment is probably more effective than the FDA. So maybe you should tell the families why quadrupling the FDA budget didn't help.

But let's be serious for a second. No system will be 100%. Even if the FDA budget quadrupled again there would be unfortunate incidents like this and even if all companies were run by saints with unlimited safety budgets, there would still be incidents like this. The paucity of listeria is testament to the effectiveness of the FDA and market policing mechanisms. 


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