The US Food and Drug Administration has shelved plans to close food-testing laboratories amid a review of how food safety is policed in the country.

FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said he had put on hold plans to close seven of the 13 labs as the agency awaits input from Congress and from a working panel set up by President Bush.

“Once we have benefit of that information, we can come back again to the more fundamental question of how do we create a field operation that is adapted to and equipped to manage converging challenges,” von Eschenbach told reporters yesterday (1 August).

The FDA proposals had met with some opposition in the wake of recent food scares involving foodstuffs made domestically and overseas.

Officials at the FDA had failed to return requests for comment as just-food went to press.

The FDA has, however, outlined a strategy that it hopes will “enhance” food safety programmes in the US.

The FDA’s “Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards” are the result of “five years of intensive cooperative effort by federal and state regulators”, the agency said.

The standards define best practices on issues including quality assurance, inspection and foodborne illness and incident investigation.