U.S. President Barack Obama has proposed bringing together the country’s food safety operations into one agency to better monitor food quality in a move that would reshape the Food and Drug Administration.
The proposal was put forward as part of the President’s 2016 budget plan. The new agency would combine the food safety responsibilities of the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies.
“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 food-borne illnesses,” the budget proposal noted.
The President’s proposal reflects provisions in draft bill introduced last month by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin from Illinois and Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut. The bill, introduced as the Safe Food Act of 2015, is designed to improve safety at a time more and more food is being sourced from overseas.
Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA, declined to say whether such a move would be supported by FDA officials.
“It depends on how it’s done,” he said.
While recognizing that food safety is fragmented, he said, the FDA will focus on implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act “while Congress considers what the President has proposed.”
The President’s proposal calls for a single agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency would be independent from the FDA and would be responsible for food safety inspections, enforcement, applied research and responses to food-poisoning outbreaks.
Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs writes in these edited comments that:
FDA oversees products that represent more than 20 cents of every dollar that American consumers spend.
In FY 2014, we took important steps to finalize a key set of proposed food safety rules … In FY 2016, we are requesting essential and timely resources to address critical food and medical product safety issues
FDA is requesting a total of $4.9 billion to support our various mandates to protect the American people. This includes a $148 million budget authority increase to focus on the following:
delivering a farm-to-table system of prevention, including improved oversight of imported foods, through effectively implementing the final rules required by FSMA;
combating the growing threat of antibiotic resistance – in which drugs become less effective, or ineffective, against harmful bacteria.