It’s not just U.S.D.A. From 2007 to 2019, the total number of employees in the Food and Drug Administration increased by nearly 80 percent to more than 17,000 employees, according to a Cato Institute report. That includes nearly 500 additional workers to review the safety of medical devices.
Has it helped? In March, Julia Ioffe wrote a must-read account in GQ of the F.D.A.’s almost-comical mishandling of an effort to roll out coronavirus test kits. First the F.D.A. approved a flawed test. Then they stymied an effective test by requiring its developer to submit his request not only electronically but also mailed in paper and via thumb drive. Then the F.D.A. demanded that the developer see if his test worked against other coronaviruses. Then the F.D.A. shut down a testing regime developed by the Seattle Flu Study because it lacked the correct licensing requirements.
Congress also had to overturn F.D.A. regulations in order to permit hospitals to purchase N95 masks previously approved only for industrial use. The country may need billions of such masks now. But as Reason magazine reported last month, federal regulators have told one would-be manufacturer that certification and approval might take between 45 and 90 days.
And this is government operating in an emergency.