Everyone wants a safer food
supply, and everyone has their thoughts on how to achieve this lofty
Some ideas cost too much to have a chance in this economic climate.
Others involve battles over turf and location of a new single agency.
Still others involve the current food safety workforce and jobs that
might be lost. And, quite frankly, all involve change, and to some, big
change is scary. So let's think about something fairly simple, that would not cost huge bucks, would not
cost jobs, and would involve only a little bit of turf.
The USDA knows animal health,
and meat and poultry inspection. The FDA knows produce, and has most of
the federal government's expertise in the canning process. Yet USDA has
Catfish regulation and inspection, and FDA has Tilapia. USDA has
regulation and inspection of egg products, while FDA has shell eggs. USDA
has regulation of chicken vegetable soup, and FDA has tomato soup.
For discussion purposes, let's
consider giving the USDA all animal and animal products and giving the
FDA all produce and canned products. That would mean that FSIS would not
only have meat and poultry, but would assume regulation and inspection of
ALL fish and seafood, all egg products and all dairy products.
With these changes, the
discussion and confusion of who inspects a cheese pizza vs. a pepperoni
pizza has just ended. The debate over zero tolerance for Listeria in deli
cheeses vs. deli meats has disappeared. And the confusion and debate over
why USDA has Catfish, but no other seafood or fish gets resolved.
Issues of concern around organic
and natural labeling for dairy products would now be under the single
roof of USDA’s Whitten Building as would labeling issues surrounding
Imports of fish and seafood
would all be under the jurisdiction of the USDA, at least clarifying to
our international trading partners what the rules for exporting to the
United States are, and making those rules consistent for all species.
Most importantly, this
redesigned structure allows both the USDA and the FDA to focus on what
they do best, and to specialize more appropriately while at the same
time, removing much of the confusion of who does what. It would also,
quite frankly, remove some of the criticism that comes from the dual
jurisdiction plants and the designation of amenability to certain species
by the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
What do you think?