Meatingplace readers say: Merge food safety functions


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By Janie Gabbett on 2/16/2009


About three out of five Meatingplace readers who responded to an online survey last week favored combining the current food regulatory functions of USDA and FDA, but only one in five said they believe the merger would result in better food safety regulation.

Of 289 readers who responded to a Zoomerang survey, 58 percent agreed the two agency functions should merge, while 42 percent did not.

However, when asked if they thought the merger would result in better, worse or about the same quality of food safety regulation, only 20 percent thought food safety regulation would improve, while 50 percent thought it would stay about the same and 30 percent thought the quality of food safety regulation would decline.

Talk of merging the two agency functions has escalated in the wake of the recent peanut recall and its associated illnesses and deaths. Currently, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service regulates meat, poultry and eggs while FDA regulates the rest of the food supply.

Given the opportunity to comment, more survey participants pointed to deficiencies in FDA regulation than in FSIS protocols. Many noted that FSIS inspectors test the meat and poultry supply far more often than FDA inspects other food processors. Several said FDA needed to become more like FSIS, and not the other way around.

Many respondents said increasing funding and inspection staffing would improve food safety regulation at both agencies.

"Just merging two departments and changing their names to be common won't affect food safety," wrote one respondent. "There would need to be fundamental changes at the plant inspection level to actually make a difference in safety."

Other suggestions included:

  • more technology use resulting in better tools for inspectors
  • more laboratory testing
  • impose fines on plants with repeated serious violations
  • require all food establishments to have HACCP plans
  • require all food establishments to have sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs)
  • continue to improve risk-based analysis of food safety systems in plants
  • target high-risk foods and move them to the USDA model of inspection
  • better training for inspectors
  • fund research to improve food safety



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