There is renewed interest in Washington behind the idea of creating a single federal agency responsible for overseeing all aspects of food safety. Such an agency would consolidate efforts currently performed by an inefficient patchwork of 16 separate federal government agencies, led by FDA and USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), which together administer at least 30 different laws relating to food safety and specific food commodities.
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Explore this issueJune/July 2017
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Adding to the overall complexity, the federal system is supplemented by more than 3,000 states, localities, tribes, and territories, many of which have their own laws and agencies to inspect facilities and investigate and contain illness outbreaks.
The idea for a single agency appears to be gaining attention following a comprehensive recommendation published earlier this year by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress; an endorsement for action by several Senate Democrats; and a new study from Harvard University and the Vermont Law School that all urge creation of a national food strategy to address the nation’s fragmented and inefficient food safety system.
Proponents of consolidation hope that the Trump administration, with its stated interests in reducing burdensome government regulations and improving efficiency, will be receptive to the idea, even though the effort is likely to face bureaucratic road bumps and perhaps cost more money than may be saved, at least in the short term.
Not A New Idea
“None of this is new,” says David Acheson, MD, former associate FDA commissioner for foods and founder of The Acheson Group.
About Ted Agres
Ted Agres is an award-winning writer who covers food safety regulatory and legislative issues from the nation’s capital in the Washington Report column. He has 40 years of experience in reporting on issues such as health policy, medical technology, and pharmaceutical development. He holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago. He enjoys playing the piano, amateur radio, and paintball. He lives in Laurel, MD. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.