Probably the best single guide to the FDA’s thinking about the spinach crisis is the testimony of Robert E. Brackett, Director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, United States Senate.
It contains a fascinating revelation:
“…FDA’s San Francisco District Office and California Department of Health Services’ Food and Drug Branch hosted a conference call with three spinach-processing firms to advise them of the outbreak and to suggest that they consider the possible need to recall spinach products.”
Note that the conference call was with THREE spinach-processing firms. We know that Natural Selection Foods was on the conference call and immediately began the voluntary recall of its products.
This paragraph indicates that there were two other processors on the line. We know that they did not announce a recall. It is quite possible that it was the decision of these two firms not to voluntarily recall that led the FDA to issue its blanket advisory.
In other words, the flowery language we have heard about everyone stepping up to the plate was not true. The FDA asked three processors to do a voluntary recall. Two processors declined to act — and, in that decision lay the proximate cause of the advisory to consumers not to eat spinach.
Read the entire testimony here.