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Food Safety Remains Top Government Concern

Date posted:
Wednesday, July 20, 2022 - 17:00
Blog poster:
Doug Farquhar, JD
Email of Blog Poster:

dfarquhar@neha.org

Congress must be disappointed with food safety constantly being considered second to drug concerns at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Food safety is currently a second-class citizen at the Food and Drug Administration”, said House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). “Right now, there are no food policy experts in charge of food safety at the FDA. That is unacceptable and contributes to a string of product contaminations and subsequent recalls that disrupt the supply chain, contribute to rising prices, and in many cases, result in consumer illness and death.”

Representative DeLauro and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined together to introduce a bicameral (i.e., both House of Representatives and Senate) bill to establish a single food safety agency at the federal level. The Food Safety Administration Act will create the Food Safety Administration, a single food safety agency responsible for keeping the food this nation consumes safe.

“The sad reality is that FDA seems unwilling or unable to use their authority to protect Americans from preventable illness and death,” says Senator Durbin. “For that reason, DeLauro and I are introducing legislation to transfer all of FDA’s food responsibilities to a new agency that, we hope, will have more success in protecting the foods in our kids’ lunch boxes and on our dining room tables.”

This act would establish the Food Safety Administration under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by incorporating into this new and separate agency the existing food programs within FDA including the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), and the food safety responsibilities of the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA). Noticeably absent is any mention of including the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The new agency would be led by a food safety expert confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

In addition to bringing focused leadership and more accountability, a unified structure and a full-time senior leader will strengthen oversight of the food supply and enhance the industry’s ability to operate effectively.

FDA regulates approximately 80% of our food supply, and consumers and industry depend on the FDA Food Program to perform its regulatory role effectively. Foodborne illness is a common and costly, yet largely preventative, public health problem. Since 2012, Congress has increased FDA’s budget for food safety by 35% and has seen 7 different FDA Commissioners.

This bill seeks to streamline the federal government’s response to food safety concerns with a single agency dedicated to safe food.

State Legislation

State legislators are active in the food safety arena. Legislators introduced 596 bills related to food safety that NEHA identified with 103 bills enacted into law as of July 2022.

NEHA has summarized the 103 bills that were enacted and has created a report discussing what each bill does.

Most every state legislature introduced bills related to food and food safety, and legislatures in 38 states introduced food safety legislation. California and New York enacted the most bills.

The foremost food safety issue was related to retail foods with 53 bills introduced and 3 passed to date. Bills related to meat were the second most popular issue with 51 bills introduced and 7 passed to date. Food freedom (i.e., cottage foods, microenterprise kitchens) was the third most popular issue with 45 bills introduced but with the most enacted at 9 bills.

Other popular issues related to food included food safety (29 introduced and 2 passed), nutrition (18 introduced and 1 passed), restaurants and food facilities (26 introduced and 5 passed), food deserts (30 introduced and 2 passed), and mobile food trucks (6 introduced with none passed).