Report calls for food safety system reform

Source of Article:

3/30/2009-The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWFJ) have released a new report, “Keeping America’s Food Safe: A blueprint for fixing the food safety system at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services,” which examines problems with the current system and proposes ways to improve the food safety functions at the HHS to better protect the nation’s food supply. The report calls for immediate consolidation of food safety leadership within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and ultimately the creation of a separate Food Safety Administration within HHS. Currently, no FDA official whose full-time job is food safety has line authority over all food safety functions. According to the report, a speedy effort by the Obama administration to consolidate leadership within FDA, followed by Congressional action to create a separate Food Safety Administration, would both ensure immediate progress on food safety and create a platform for long-term success in reducing food-borne illness. The report identifies the following key problems with the current structure of food safety programs at HHS:

• Inadequate leadership, prioritization, and coordination.
• Inadequate technologies and inspection practices.
• Inadequate staffing and resources.
• Inadequate inspection of imports.

The report offers the following recommendations:

• Increasing and aligning resources with the highest-risk threats.
• Modernizing the mandate and legal authority of the HHS Secretary to prevent illness, which would include enforcing the duty of food companies to implement modern preventive controls and meet government-established food safety performance standards.
• Immediately establishing a Deputy Commissioner at FDA with line authority over all food safety programs, including the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the food functions of the Office of Regulatory Affairs, as an interim step toward creating a Food Safety Administration.
• Working through Congress toward the creation of a Food Safety Administration within HHS, strategically aligning and elevating the food safety functions currently housed at FDA and better coordinating regulation policies and practices with the surveillance and detection of outbreak functions at CDC and with food safety agencies at the state and local level.

Report (pdf)



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