I do not agree that one food safety agency is better. Such a behemoth will be bound by a morass of red tape. The agencies have evolved over the last 100 years, They have their own culture and hierarchy. The turbulence caused by any drastic change will hurt the public health mission of all the agencies involved and will take 20 years to sort out, This is a dangerous move and must not happen.
What is needed is better funding, more focus on the consumer and enlisting the private sector in a true partnership with public health.
GAO report supports single food safety agency
By Tom Karst Published on 03/04/2011 03:03PM
Consolidating food safety oversight into one agency could save the federal government money and improve performance, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reports.
The report, called “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue,” concludes the current oversight of food safety is inconsistent, inefficient and ineffective.
Although reducing fragmentation in federal food safety oversight may not result in significant cost savings, new costs may be avoided by preventing further fragmentation, the report said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration are the primary food safety agencies, but the report said 15 agencies have some degree of oversight on 30 food-related laws.
The increasing popularity of raw foods, rising imports and the vulnerability of some of the population to foodborne illness make efficient federal oversight of food safety more important than ever, the GAO said.
The FDA is the agency for federal oversight of produce safety so consolidation is not a huge industry priority, said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public relations for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.
She said the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act made some improvements in how the FDA approaches risk-based oversight.
“There are ways to gain efficiency without monster reform,” she said.
Even if consolidation does occur, it would take several years and require existing agencies to operate well in the meantime, she said.
While not agreeing with all of the GAO report recommendations, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement that the study provides additional evidence for the need to consolidate food safety oversight into one independent agency.
“I have introduced legislation that would establish such an agency since 1999 and believe that this is a critical step toward preventing foodborne illnesses and protecting public health,” DeLauro said in a statement.