Consolidation of Food Safety Agencies Improved Regulation in Other Nations, GAO Report Finds
Food safety regulation became more consistent and efficient in seven countries that consolidated multiple food safety regulatory agencies, according to a Government Accountability Office draft report released to Congress on Monday, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. For the report, requested by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other senators, GAO investigators studied food safety in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, each of which has created a centralized food safety agency.
The report showed that following consolidation, regulators reduced overlapping inspections and "focused their efforts on the greatest risks" to food safety, the AP/Sun reports. Investigators said that it was not possible to determine whether consolidation reduced food-borne illness in the seven countries because multiple factors were involved. The report did not "explicitly recommend" centralizing the 12 federal agencies that currently regulate food safety in the United States, but it concluded that more efficient and better-targeted inspections would outweigh the cost of acquiring new buildings and laboratory equipment if such a move was made, according to the AP/Sun.
Durbin -- who is sponsoring a bill that would establish a single, independent U.S. food safety agency to handle inspections, enforcement and establishment of standards -- said the report indicates that a "single food safety agency is the single best way to protect families from food-related illness or attack. One agency with clear and independent authority will ensure that food safety is driven by science not politics" (Margasak, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/23).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.