Buckeye Farm News
The extensive and ever widening recall of peanut products is prompting calls for the United States to consolidate its two food inspection agencies into a single agency.
Farm Bureau opposes merging the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Department of Health and Human Services into a single entity. The two agencies are responsible for the majority of food safety oversight. FSIS regulates meat, poultry and egg production and processing while the FDA agency inspects almost all of the other food products, including fresh produce, dairy, processed products and food imports.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said he supports having a single food inspection agency.
“We oppose consolidation of the FDA and USDA into one agency because of our concern with the disruption of those programs. Reorganizing them now could cause real harm to the food safety system,” said Adam Sharp, OFBF’s senior director of legislative and regulatory policy. “Consolidation of the agencies would result in less organization and more time and energy would be spent on the transition than on inspections, which are critical for food safety.”
Some of the proposed food safety bills could threaten trade relations because they are not based on science or risk, Sharp said.
Instead of creating a single food agency, the United States should increase education and funding for food safety inspectors, Sharp said, noting that food safety systems and public research have not been adequately funded.
“We’re interested in having a lot of improvements made in the food safety system as it exists today. We should focus on upgrading our science and technology abilities, improve the tools that inspectors have, have better funding for floor inspectors and increase the quality of the inspections,” he said. “Adequate funding is essential for improving food safety.”
The FDA needs to respond quickly and accurately to identify contaminated products and remove them from the market, and it needs to do so in a way that results in as little disruption to producers as possible, Sharp said. Producers who suffer market losses because of inaccurate government-advised recalls or warnings should receive indemnification, he said.
“The United States continues to have one of the safest food systems in the world. Unfortunately whenever there’s an outbreak, lawmakers feel pressure to make changes to our food protection system, which in the end could actually disrupt the food chain,” Sharp said.