As I see it

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Along with high-level apologies for competency failures in the Office of the Attorney General, VA hospitals, FEMA, FBI and many others, we may add the FDA, previously the world's “gold standard” of health product regulators.

Not only did it fail to protect America from tainted pet food, simultaneously claiming it didn't regulate that industry and that it applies the same inspection force to pet food as to human food, but in March the FDA's new commissioner was caught presenting false testimony to Congress while under oath.

Andrew von Eschenbach apparently didn't know that his staff-prepared testimony contained 11 false statements about the approval of Sanofi-Aventis' Ketek, so congressional investigators went after his staff instead of the occupant of the desk.

In an unprecedented letter to Michael Leavitt, head of the FDA's parent department, House Energy and Commerce Committee chair and chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations asked for all documents used in preparing the tainted testimony, and to interview everyone involved.

As in most of the wider government scandals already in the headlines, this one didn't involve allegations of criminal intent—just the everyday competency that employers (taxpayers) expect of our employees (the government).

As former Tennessee senator and potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson wrote in an op-ed: “A big part of the problem is our outmoded civil-service system that makes it too hard to hire good employees and too hard to fire bad ones. The bureaucracy has become gargantuan, making accountability and reform very difficult.”

Recent efforts to reform the FDA show the alarming wisdom in those words.
Dickinson is editor of Dickinson's FDA Webview (

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