Obama: Single agency would provide primary voice on food safety standards

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Obama proposes bringing food safety under one agency

Related tags Food safety Food and drug administration Barack obama Food

US president Barack Obama has proposed a single food safety agency as part of budget plans submitted to Congress.

The 2016 budget proposal said a single federal food safety agency would pro­vide focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice and compliance with food safety standards, and clear lines of respon­sibility and accountability.

It proposes to consolidate the USDA-FSIS and the food safety re­lated components of the FDA to create a single agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

FDA and FSIS responsibility

While FDA is responsible for most foods, FSIS is responsible for meat and poultry​,” according to the budget document.

“While FSIS oversees processed egg products, FDA oversees shell eggs. FDA is responsible for seafood, but FSIS is responsible for catfish.

“FDA and FSIS can each have jurisdiction over the same category of food at different points in the food chain: a cheese pizza and its ingredients are regulated solely by FDA, but both agencies play roles in regulating the components and manufacturing of a pepperoni pizza.”

Senator Richard Durbin and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro put forward legislation​ along the same lines to replace current oversight which is split up among 15 different agencies, last week.

In a statement about the Obama budget and step towards a single food safety agency, DeLauro said the current food safety system is hopelessly fragmented and outdated, putting lives at risk.

“Putting our food safety functions under HHS is a step that I first suggested in 2007; I am glad the Administration has proposed taking this action in their FY16 budget,” ​she said.

“Ensuring we have one agency with a singular focus on--and sufficient resources for--the safety of our food supply cannot wait any longer.”  

Primary responsibilities

The agency would be independent from FDA and have pri­mary responsibility for food safety inspections, enforcement, applied research, and outbreak re­sponse and mitigation, said the budget documents.

“The new agency would be charged with pursuing a modern, science-based food safety regulatory regime drawing on best practices of both agencies, with strong en­forcement and recall mechanisms, expertise in risk assessment, and enforcement and research efforts across all food types based on scientifical­ly supportable assessments of threats to public health.

“It would rationalize the food safety regulatory regime and allow the Federal Government to better allocate resources and responsibilities.”

The US Food and Drug Administration is requesting $4.9bn ($1.3bn for food safety) as part of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget – a 9% increase over the enacted budget for FY 2015.

It includes $147.7m in budget authority for initiatives tied to areas, including the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

This includes inspection and training ($25m), education and technical assistance for industry ($11.5m), technical staffing and guidance development at FDA ($4m) and new import safety systems ($25.5m).

Final rules for preventive controls for human and animal foods are due on August 30; for produce safety, Foreign Supplier Verification Programs and accreditation of third party auditors on October 31 and for sanitary transportation and intentional adulteration on March 31, 2016 and May 31, 2016.

The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) at FDA would receive an additional $84m as the budget calls for an increase from $903m to $987m. 

Making the promise of FSMA a reality requires giving FDA the resources it needs to actually conduct more inspections and carry out the science that is critical to understanding and combating foodborne diseases,​” said David Plunkett, senior staff attorney for food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The FY 2016 budget request from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes an increase of $2.1m for food safety. 

One-half of the requested increase will go to state and local health agencies to enhance vital national surveillance, outbreak detection and response, and food safety prevention efforts. 

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