Call for a Unified U.S. Food Safety Agency Gains Momentum

by Ella

In a joint statement, two esteemed experts with extensive experience in the realm of food safety have advocated for the establishment of a single, comprehensive food safety agency in the United States. Citing the critical importance of providing safe, nutritious, and accessible food to the American people, the authors argue that a unified approach is necessary to streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and ensure taxpayer dollars are utilized optimally.

The authors of this statement, who have dedicated their careers to safeguarding public health through their work in federal service, academia, and the private sector, contend that a unified food safety strategy is paramount. They assert that this strategy should precede any discussion about organizational structure, emphasizing that the right structure is essential to implement a unified vision effectively.


This call for a single food safety agency is not a novel concept and transcends political affiliations. In 2017, the Trump administration proposed consolidating food safety regulatory activities into one entity, the Federal Food Safety Agency, under the purview of the USDA. Similarly, the Obama administration also advocated for a single food safety agency, albeit under the FDA’s jurisdiction. The idea of merging food safety functions into a single agency dates back to 1949.


Congress has seen several attempts to legislate such a consolidation, with lawmakers like Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Richard Durbin introducing relevant legislation. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also endorsed the concept, affirming that a single food safety agency equipped with a uniform, risk-based inspection system is the most effective means to address longstanding issues, emerging food safety concerns, and safeguard the nation’s food supply.


The recent call for a unified food safety agency gained momentum following concerns raised about the FDA’s handling of various food safety issues, including the infant formula crisis, missed deadlines for food safety rule issuance mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, and the failure to address toxic heavy metals in baby foods.


The authors of this statement also referenced the Reagan-Udall report, which highlighted deficiencies within the FDA’s Human Foods Program. Notably, the report expressed concerns about the lack of clear leadership within the program’s organizational structure, resulting in a dearth of a coherent vision or mission. The report also critiqued the FDA’s reliance on consensus-building, which, while valuable in some contexts, often hindered timely decision-making and the implementation of cutting-edge scientific advancements.

In addition to structural issues, the authors underscored disparities in food inspection frequency between the USDA and the FDA. For instance, while frozen pizzas containing meat are continuously inspected by the USDA, those without meat receive FDA scrutiny only once every five years, a differentiation that lacks a scientific or risk-based foundation.

The authors concluded by advocating for a modernized, risk-based, and data-driven approach to food safety regulation, one that prioritizes oversight of products with the highest potential risks to consumers.

While acknowledging the challenges of governmental change, they urged political leaders to demonstrate the courage required to make essential reforms. They emphasized that their call for a single food safety agency is not an indictment of the dedicated staff at the FDA and USDA but an opportunity to strengthen the system for even greater effectiveness.

The authors stressed that a well-executed transition to a unified food safety agency could lead to a more efficient government, with clearly defined roles, reduced inefficiencies, and a data-driven, risk-based approach to inspection. They noted that no other developed country operates under such a fragmented system and urged the United States to prioritize public health by charting a course towards a single food safety agency, a move they contend is essential for consumers, taxpayers, and the regulated food industry alike.



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