With 70 victims (41 confirmed as of June 22nd) in 30 states, FDA and Nestlé still don't know how E. coli O157:H7 was introduced into Toll House raw cookie dough products.
Yesterday, FDA posted a series of inspection reports for the Danville, Virginia facility where the Toll House cookie dough was manufactured. The most recent FDA inspection, performed over the course of 12 hours on March 12 2009 – only four hours of which were spent on the Toll House cookie dough area – did not uncover a single sanitary violation or "objectionable" condition.
The inspection reports reveal little else. Thanks to Nestlé's corporate policy,
- FDA was not permitted to review the company's consumer complaint files;
- FDA was not permitted to review the company's HACCP program;
- FDA was refused permission to photograph any areas inside the facility; and
- FDA was not permitted to review either the pest control records or the environmental testing program.
If these restrictions sound familiar, it's because FDA and the Georgia Department of Agriculture encountered similar roadblocks at Peanut Corporation of America. It was only during the Salmonella outbreak investigation that FDA gained access to all of the Company's files, including lab test results.
Nestlé released the following statement on June 24th:
The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which is working its way through the House of Representatives, will increase FDA's access to quality assurance, environmental testing and other records during routine inspections – if the Act survives its trip through the House and Senate unaltered.
Meanwhile, it seems to take an outbreak investigation to bring about full cooperation between food corporations and regulators.