FOIA & the FDA: Interview with FDA official
Handling FOIA Requests:
Project reporters interviewed an FDA appeals officer to find out more about the agency's process of handling FOIA requests:
Decentralized process: All requests come through FDA Headquarters in Rockville, Md., are opened, dated, stamped, and logged manually into computer system. The requests are then scanned and referred to the appropriate center or district office, based on nature of request.
Logging On: Once it's determined which center or office is responsible for handling the request, that contact receives an e-mail notification alerting them to the new item they need to address. They log into the computer system, review the information and determine if indeed they can adequately respond or if the request should be directed elsewhere.
Redirected: About 10 percent of cases need to be re-routed. A very small number of requests stay at the central office, for example, if the request deals with a closed file.
Numbers Dwindle: Over the years, the number of requests made to the FDA has dwindled as more information becomes available on the Internet. Estimates indicate that 20 years ago the FDA might have received 50,000 requests annually, now it gets approximately 12,000.
Appeals Process: Denials of information can be appealed. The FDA Web site includes annual reports which include the number of appeals.