Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have introduced bills in Congress that would establish a single, independent federal food safety agency. Food safety oversight is currently split up among 15 agencies in the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Commerce. The Safe Food Act of 2015 introduced Wednesday in both houses of Congress would consolidate all the authorities for food safety inspections, enforcement and labeling into the Food Safety Administration — independent of any federal department. The aim is to improve food safety for consumers, while also cutting back on the costs of a dispersed system with overlapping responsibilities between agencies — something Durbin noted, during a Wednesday call with reporters, should get the Republican majority to look at the legislation. “There is a lot of duplication, a lot of waste, and we can save money and make America’s food supply even safer,” he said. In an op-ed in The Hill, Durbin and DeLauro referred to food safety as an issue of national security. “What the bill does is remedy the situation,” DeLauro said. “With a single agency, we believe our country will be able to have the ability to detect relatively minor problems before they become major outbreaks.” The Act would provide the Food Safety Administration with mandatory recall authority for unsafe food, require risk assessments and preventive control plans to reduce adulteration, authorize enforcement actions to strengthen contaminant performance standards, improve foreign food import inspections, and require full food traceability to better identify sources of outbreaks. DeLauro said the bill builds on the improvements made in FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The federal agencies that would be incorporated into one include:

  • FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM)
  • The resources and facilities of FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs that administer and conduct inspections of food and feed facilities and imports
  • The resources and facilities of the Office of the FDA Commissioner that support CFSAN, CVM and inspections
  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
  • The part of USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service that administers shell egg surveillance services
  • The part of USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area related to food and feed safety
  • The part of USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Health Service related to the management of animals going into the food supply
  • The part of the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce that administers the seafood inspection program

DeLauro said the consolidation would also eliminate interference with the agriculture promotion goals of USDA and trade goals of the Department of Commerce and enhance FDA’s other missions regarding drugs and tobacco. A single food safety agency is not a new concept, and the two lawmakers have sponsored Safe Food Acts five times before, though the most recent was in 2007. In addition, the Government Accountability Office has reported on the need for better coordination of food safety activities over the years. DeLauro referenced eggs as an example of the current food safety system’s fragmentation. “One agency manages the health of hens, another oversees the feed that they eat, another sets egg quality standards but does not test them for Salmonella,” she said. “While still in its shell, the egg is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration, but once it’s processed into an egg product, it becomes the responsibility of Food Safety and Inspection Service.” In her statement of support for the bills, Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that, “It’s crazy to have one cabinet secretary in charge of chicken, beef, and pepperoni pizza, and another cabinet secretary responsible for eggs, milk, and cheese pizza.” “A single food safety agency would allow us to better focus our resources where the greatest risks lie,” said Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America. “The Safe Food Act is a strong vision for the future of food safety.” Moving forward, Durbin and DeLauro said they will work to build bipartisan support for the bills. Current cosponsors of the Senate Safe Food Act include Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Cosponsors in the House include Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), James Langevin (D-RI), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

  • battleshiphips

    I think they’ll make a hash of it. I also think all food safety should simply be moved to the USDA. Separating food safety from agriculture is a not a good idea. The one thing I don’t want to see is a bunch of bureaucratic nimrods that don’t know anything about farming purporting to improve food safety by telling farmers how to grow food. Get rid of the FDA and move their jobs to the CDC (drug safety) and the USDA (food safety) Creating a whole new agency instead getting rid of the duplication is not how we get lean and efficient government. It’s just more paperwork.

  • I think a completely new department should be created and NO ONE from any of the other agencies be allowed in, and NO ONE from biotech be allowed to participate. Like that is going to happen.

  • Jennifer Johns

    As a local health inspector I fully support this especially if the same happens at the state level as well. I’m so tired of getting two different answers to the same question because the state health department and the state department of ag don’t agree. We end up licensing and inspecting places differently depending on if it is overseen by ag or health.

  • Sie.Kathieravealu

    Food safety starts from preparing soil to cultivate a crop, growing the crop, harvesting the crop,, storing the crop and the distributing the crop. In all these process the “health” side has to be looked after for “food safety”. Like-wise in the growing of animals and birds for food. These too must come under food safety.
    The fertilizer, pesticides, drugs used in safely producing the food we are to consume has to be carefully looked into in deciding the safety of our health.

    So “food safety” is a very big subject.and has to be handled properly IF we are to live in good health.

  • jack

    The proposed bill will reduce the frequency of inspections at meat and poultry processing plants to monthly, and potentially annually. Under FSIS they are inspected daily. This new FDA type inspection (site visits) will lead to big problems. I agree some food safety functions can be consolidated, but this bill is, as written, is bad business.

  • battleshiphips

    I’m not proposing a new agency, I propose getting rid of one. Because the FDA is actually doing neither the F or the D well. The D can be moved to the CDC. Put drugs with disease and food with agriculture and get rid of the the FDA, streamline government and concentrate areas of expertise. Separating food safety from food production is just expensive bureaucratic empire building.

  • ethanspapa

    we have 15 among a bunch of political hacked agencies R U kidding me. We need 1 just one that covers everything that we and our pets ingest.

  • Danny Woerner

    Exemptions could be given to the “very small” businesses (<10 employees) but all other "small and larger" food producing companies "processing food with multi-ingredients" should have to follow FSIS' HACCP regulations identifying potential hazards and establishing critical control points to prevnt biological, physical, & chemical hazards from reaching the consumer.

  • Sie.Kathieravealu

    correct. Even now they – the Democrats – can try to get the Republicans in for a good cause – the safety of the people.

  • Concerned Consumer 2015

    Congress is very short sighted in not fully evaluating the entire continuum of crops, food animals, food production/manufacturing and imports.
    While very burdensome and time-consuming, it would be better to bring in all aspects of food safety into a new agency with the focus on food and related commodities: all units involved in the process of importing foods, animals for consumption & crops, biotechnology, domestic production, livestock production, livestock feeds/pharmaceuticals and production enhancers, etc. The agency could coordinate the use of pesticides on domestic and imported commodities with the EPA. All of the persons responsible for the inspection and verification of imported foodstuffs/crops/animals from FSIS, FDA, CBP, APHIS and other agencies should be consolidated under one umbrella to ensure that all requirements are for public and animal health are met. Each agency is currently looking at the same commodities for different reasons depending on their authorities. A single shipment may have to be inspected or cleared for importation by 2, 3, 4 or more agencies.
    Why animal health? There are many animal diseases that affect humans including avian influenza or “bird flu” just by close contact with infected birds and many animal origin materials such as bush meat that can carry high risk diseases for humans such as Ebola. There is not one federal agency that has the authority to prohibit the importation of ALL bush meat. Even with all of the authorities cobbled together, the Federal Government still can’t prohibit all bush meat. One agency with that level of authority would better serve the public.