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Are We Closer to a Single Food Agency?

06/25/2019

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) have jointly introduced the Safe Food Act of 2019.  In addressing a meeting of the Congressional Food Safety Caucus DeLauro outlined the intent of the Bill which was framed to correct the fragmentation which currently exists in the food safety system.

 

The Government Accountability Office has identified 15 Federal agencies administering over 30 laws relating to food safety.  Admittedly the FDA and the USDA-FSIS are responsible for most of the heavy lifting but inconsistencies and in some cases turf battles impede efficiency.  Areas of concern include regulation of food produced outside the boundaries of the U.S. and preventing foodborne disease outbreaks which are increasing in incidence.

 

The Safe Food Act of 2019 would consolidate food safety including inspection, enforcement and labeling under the jurisdiction of a single entity.  The Bill if enacted would intensify inspection of foreign food production and inspection at points of entry.  Traceability would be enhanced.  The diverse resources currently extended to research would be focused on detection and suppression of pathogens.

 

Representative DeLauro cites the 2010 recall of eggs distributed by Jack DeCoster, and the problems associated with romaine lettuce, ground turkey meat, wheat flour, beef and raw milk.  Addressing the Food Safety Caucus DeLauro stated, “For consumers and businesses alike food safety is a problem we must be focused on.   A problem that demands our attention is the hopelessly fragmented and outdated food safety system.”

 

CHICK-NEWS recognizes the immense logistic and structural challenges facing a profound reorganization of the food inspection and safety system. The industry has developed a modus vivendi with FSIS and other sectors function in accordance with FDA requirements.  Introducing a single food safety agency would require new perspectives and adjustments and would entail short-term confusion and problems.

 

When previously advocates of food safety have suggested a single agency, FSIS and FDA sensing erosion of their respective jurisdictions have circled the wagons and signed memorandums of agreement frequently using the Food Safety Modernization Act as their umbrella.

 

The success of unified food safety agencies have been demonstrated in the UK and EU.  When confronted with a national crisis, various departmental activities related to national security were combined into the Department of Homeland Security within a year.  It is time to dispassionately evaluate the potential advantages of a single food safety agency and to reason through valid objections and to develop programs that facilitate a transition.