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Legislators Seek Establishment of Single Food Safety Agency

The move will surely be opposed by a host of food and foodservice supply chain companies.

The legislators and their supports believe the Safe Food Act also would modernize the 100-year old food safety laws, and give the new chief a unified budget. The legislation is supported by the nonprofit food safety and nutrition watchdog group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The government's food safety resources are not equitably split between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Bush Administration's 2008 budget proposal makes matters worse, according to CSPI.

The Safe Food Act would create a Food Safety Administration, similar to the Environmental Protection Agency, that would take responsibility for food safety and labeling from USDA and FDA.

The bill would also establish a comprehensive program to protect public health and bolster consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply. Currently, food safety monitoring, inspection, and labeling functions are spread across 12 federal agencies.

The Safe Food Act would consolidate the activities of various federal agencies responsible for the nation's food supply including USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service.

The bill also includes a traceback provision, gives the new agency recall authority, and requires more frequent inspections to help prevent future E. coli outbreaks. The foodservice supply chain, including the International Foodservice Distributors Association, Markon, and others have opposed the creation of a single food safety body. Instead, they favor strict, standardized, scientific self-monitoring by all supply chain partners that would ensure the food safety and integrity of fresh produce. (See article by Jorge Hernandez of U.S. Foodservice in the Jan. 26 edition of ID Report and article on the Marketing Agreement in the Feb. 2 of ID Report.)

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