Urge Trump Administration To Streamline Food Safety Protocols According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in six Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 fatalities annually from eating unsafe food
the safety and security of our food production and inspection system. With today’s release of the General Accounting Office (GAO) report, “A National Strategy is Needed to Address Fragmentation in Federal Oversight”, we urge you to consider implementing the GAO’s recommendations and work with Congress to improve the efficiency, uniformity, integrity, and responsiveness of the food safety system to ensure Americans’ continued confidence in the safety of their food.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from eating unsafe food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service estimates the 15 most common foodborne pathogens impose an economic burden of more than $15.5 billion, while CDC has estimated that the total health costs associated with foodborne illness is nearly $36 billion annually.
The safety and quality of the U.S. food supply is governed by a highly complex system that has evolved on a piecemeal basis over many decades, typically in response to either health threats or economic crises. The result is a fragmented legal and organizational structure that gives responsibility for specific food commodities to different agencies and provides significantly different authorities to enforce food safety laws. Currently, at least 30 laws are collectively administered by 15 federal agencies. The agencies with primary food safety oversight responsibility are USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FSIS is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, and processed egg products, and FDA is responsible for virtually all other food.
Under this convoluted regulatory framework, a frozen pepperoni pizza must meet USDA and FDA standards, whereas a cheese pizza must only meet FDA standards. Such distinctions are not only burdensome for food manufacturers, but also fail consumer interest: products containing meat receive several routine inspections before they reach store shelves, while meatless products, despite having their own food safety risks, are far less likely to receive federal inspection.
This fragmented federal food safety system has raised concerns for decades. The GAO has long reported that the system is in need of transformation and has resulted in inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources. GAO has included federal oversight of food safety both on its High Risk List since 2007 and in its annual report to Congress, starting in 2011, on federal initiatives that that have duplicative goals or activities.
Over the years, many proposals have been made to streamline the U.S. food safety system, but no action to date has been taken. For example, consolidation of the U.S. food safety system has been proposed in legislation introduced in Congress, reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Commission on the Public Service, and in several GAO reports and testimonies. In January 2015, Senate and House companion bills were introduced proposing the creation of a single, independent federal food safety agency. In