Currently, the responsibility of food safety oversight of food products imported, grown and produced in the United States is split between 15 different agencies. In late June, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have once again introduced their Safe Food Act, a bill that aims to streamline federal food safety operations by consolidating these 15 agencies into a single, independent agency. This week, we’ll explore this bill and briefly summarize how the current federal food safety process works.
New Safe Food Act Details
The bill itself is 81-pages long and chock full of complex language, but we can pull out a few highlights to summarize what this bill intends to accomplish.
- Establish a single food safety agency
- Improve the import inspection process
- Require product traceability to quickly identify the source of outbreaks
- Develop data sharing to learn more about outbreaks and foodborne illness
The sponsors of this bill are concerned that the current food safety system is too fragmented to be incredibly effective. The FDA and USDA are responsible for different aspects of regulation and inspection while the CDC also becomes involved in the event of an outbreak. There are also several sub-agencies that are involved in the overall process. The lawmakers feel that consolidating these agencies will put all of the information at the fingertips of one agency reducing gaps in coverage.
With numerous outbreaks occurring from product from out of the country, the Safe Food Act aims to improve the inspection process of foreign product before contaminated food reaches the market.
Finally, this bill will aim to provide a system to learn more about foodborne illness outbreaks. If the source of an outbreak can be traced quickly, product can be recalled and removed faster than under the current system. Data tracking and sharing also gives greater insight that can be used to counter the effects of outbreaks in the future.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have suggested consolidating all of the federal food safety agencies under one roof. The Safe Food Act was previously introduced by these same senators in 1999, and the White House called for the simplification of the food safety inspection and outbreak prevention process in 2018.
Do you feel a consolidated food safety agency will reduce foodborne illness, or do you believe multiple agencies provide us better protection?