Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump unveiled his administration’s plans to reorganize the federal government, including the creation of a new Federal Food Safety Agency. The reformation plans are documented in a 132-page document entitled Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations.
Why the food safety overhaul?
The administration cites 40 years of reporting from the Government Accountability Office that points to “inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources,” due to what they call “fragmented” federal oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The recommendations go into great detail about how the Trump administration would like to revamp how and by whom food safety is regulated. Here are two summaries of what the administration has in mind:
Summary of Proposal: This proposal would address the current fragmented Federal oversight of food safety by reorganizing the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the food safety functions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ FDA into a single agency within USDA. USDA demonstrates strong and effective leadership in food safety and maintains an expert understanding of food safety issues from the farm to the fork. This proposal would cover virtually all the foods Americans eat.
“To provide better food safety for the country and improve efficiency for stakeholders, the Administration proposes to consolidate core Federal food safety responsibilities into a single agency under USDA, where food safety is a top priority from farm to fork. This consolidation will give USDA the clear mandate, dedicated budget, and full responsibility it needs for optimal oversight of the entire U.S. food supply. Resources at the FDA will be freed up to focus on its core responsibilities of drugs, devices, biologics, and tobacco. Most importantly, this proposal will provide better food safety outcomes for the American people over the long term.”
The administration also refers to the current U.S. food safety system as “duplicative.” For example: while FSIS has regulatory responsibility for the safety of liquid eggs, FDA has regulatory responsibility for the safety of eggs while they are inside of their shells; FDA regulates cheese pizza, but if there is pepperoni on top, it falls under the jurisdiction of FSIS; FDA regulates closed-faced meat sandwiches, while FSIS regulates open-faced meat sandwiches.
To address this fragmented and illogical division of Federal oversight, FSIS and the food safety functions of the FDA would be consolidated into a single agency within USDA called the Federal Food Safety Agency.
The new Federal Food Safety Agency would pursue a modern, science-based food safety regulatory regime drawing on best practices of both USDA and HHS, with strong enforcement and recall mechanisms, expertise in risk assessment, and enforcement efforts across all food types based on scientifically supported practices. The Agency would serve as the central point for coordinating with State and local entities and food safety stakeholders, rationalizing and simplifying the Federal food safety regulatory regime. The reform would reduce duplication of inspection at some food processing facilities, improve outreach to consumers and industry, and achieve savings over time while ensuring robust and coordinated food safety oversight.
You can read all about the administration’s plans to overhaul the U.S. food safety system on pages 12, 15, and 32-34 of the official recommendations on WhiteHouse.gov.