An interesting insight into these issues was provided by the GAO study noted earlier. Commissioned by congressional leaders, the study examined the effectiveness of reorganized food safety systems in seven countries or regions outside the United States, areas in which consumers have high disposable income and high expectations for food safety: Canada, the European Union (which oversees food safety in 27 member countries), Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. These six countries and the EU have, in the past decade, reorganized and streamlined their food safety regulatory structures either in response to public safety concerns or due to a desire for greater regulatory efficiency.
Key characteristics in many or all of the regulatory structures, as identified by the GAO, indicate the elements on which a unified U.S. food regulatory authority might focus:
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Increased media reporting of food-related illnesses—with some sources claiming 70 million cases each year—followed by highly publicized product recalls has created the widespread perception that this multi-level system of food safety regulation is inadequate.