GAO Proposes Unified Agency for Food Safety
The General Accounting Office on Tuesday issued a report calling for a single, independent food safety agency during a hearing of the House Government Reform Civil Service and Agency Organization Subcommittee, CQ Today reports. As an alternative to a single agency, GAO also proposed legislation that would set broad standards for FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation. In the report, GAO said current food safety rules are "inconsistent" and "inefficient," and could allow unsafe food into the U.S. food supply, according to CQ Today. Under current guidelines, USDA generally is responsible for overseeing meat, poultry and certain egg products, while FDA regulates all other foods (Jalonick, CQ Today, 3/30) CongressDaily reports that there are currently 30 separate food safety laws, with responsibility divided among FDA, USDA and 10 other agencies (Hagstrom, CongressDaily, 3/31).
In testimony, Bush administration officials said they oppose the creation of a new agency and that "proposals for changes to the current system need to be comprehensively researched," CQ Today reports. Subcommittee Chair Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R- Va.) does not support a new agency but said that she would back more consistent standards for FDA and USDA (CQ Today, 3/30). Lawrence Dyckman, GAO natural resources and environment director, said that "thousands" of U.S. residents die every year from unsafe food. Dyckman called current food safety regulations a "piecemeal reaction" to threats and "not the product of strategic design" (CongressDaily, 3/31). Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, testified that the creation of a new agency "is a national security issue." She added, "[I]f a terrorist were to strike the U.S. food supply, consumer confidence would plummet as fast as confidence in airport security did following Sept. 11, 2001" (CQ Today, 3/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.