Obama Proposes New Food Safety Agency

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Tucked into President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget outline is a plan that would radically alter the responsibilities of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as other agencies by creating a stand-alone, federally funded food safety unit.

“A single Federal food safety agency would provide focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards, and clear lines of responsibility and accountability that will enhance both prevention of and responses to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses,” reads the section of the budget document detailing the proposal. This new agency would combine the current food safety responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) with those of FDA and over a dozen other agencies. It would operate independently of FDA and feature “strong enforcement and recall mechanisms.”

The proposal references the current overlaps in jurisdiction and redundancies in U.S. food safety policy. For example, it says that currently, “FSIS inspects manufacturers of packaged open-face meat or poultry sandwiches, while FDA inspects manufacturers of closed-face meat or poultry sandwiches.”

This plan from the president’s office is inspired by provisions in the Safe Food Act of 2015, introduced at the beginning of the year by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Reuters reports.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2015 (online 2/23/15)