Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, called the recent eruption of listeria in cantaloupes "the most serious, most deadly food-borne outbreak in decades." In comments at a lunch-time session of the Washington Ideas Forum, Hamburg said the incident is "a very, very important reminder that even though we have one of the safest food supplies in the world, we are still very vulnerable."
Hamburg noted that 3,000 Americans die of food-borne illnesses each year.
In the interview with Atlantic senior editor Corby Kummer, Hamburg also talked about a just-released report from the FDA on biomedical innovation. It's part of an initiative, she said, to improve the relationship between government officials and entrepreneurs in the health and medical communities who are subject to federal regulation. "I don't think it will come as news to anyone that there is concern about whether regulatory agencies...represent barriers to progress and innovation, or gateways." Her unspoken implication: gateways.
Hamburg said she wants to strengthen ties between the FDA and biomedical entrepreneurs, and she suggested she understands the pain caused by excessive bureaucracy. "Every day is costing them money, and every day [they have to wait] is compromising their ability...to get the product to the finish line."
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Bob Cohn is the former president of The Atlantic.