At Safe Food Training, we usually avoid commenting on the political landscape unless it directly relates to MN food safety and certified food managers. However, as part of the current administration’s effort to consolidate select federal agencies, a proposal has been put forth to form a single federal food safety agency under the umbrella of the USDA.
How Proposed Federal Agency Reorganization Might Affect MN Food Safety
As things currently stand, two agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and a branch of the USDA known as the Food Safety and Inspection Service, have different levels of regulatory power when it comes to food safety in our country. Since there are two agencies, we have to ask what is the difference between the two?
After some research, we’ve discovered that one of the major differences between the two agencies involves what types of products they inspect. For example, the USDA and the FSIS may be responsible for the inspection of poultry, meats and eggs while fruits and vegetables fall under FDA jurisdiction. Meats and canned products containing meat receive quite a bit of scrutiny during inspections by the USDA, but many times large quantities of non-meat canned products, such as applesauce or tomato soup, go uninspected before shipped to consumers. Some seafood and fish products belong under the jurisdiction of one agency or the other. Catfish, for example, is regulated by the USDA while other fresh-water fish are inspected by the FDA.
The line becomes more and more blurred as we delve into pre-made products. The FDA is in charge of closed-faced meat sandwiches, while FSIS regulates open-faced meat sandwiches. This means that one agency regulates frozen pizzas and the other mass-produced pre-packaged breakfast sandwiches. These varied regulations make us wonder if any products slip through this confusing inspection process and pose potential health risks to consumers.
The consolidation of federal food safety agencies is not a partisan issue, or even a new one. The Obama administration put forth a similar proposal during their tenure in the White House.
There may be pros and cons of creating one agency that encompasses all of national food safety regulations and inspection. As a certified food manager with a professional interest in MN food safety, do you feel that a single regulatory agency will help keep the raw ingredients you use safer, or do you think multiple, clearly defined agencies are necessary for extended oversight of national food safety.