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Food safetyLawmakers seek to create single food safety agency to improve oversight

Published 3 February 2015

Lawmakers are seeking to pass a bill which would a single food safety agency to replace the current multi-agency system, which critics say is “hopelessly fragmented and outdated.” Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) have proposed the 2015 Safe Food Act, which would replace the current food safety oversight system – which consists of fifteen different agencies — with a single organization.

Lawmakers are seeking to pass a bill which would a single food safety agency to replace the current multi-agency system, which critics say is “hopelessly fragmented and outdated.”

Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) have proposed the 2015 Safe Food Act, which would replace the current food safety oversight system – which consists of fifteen different agencies — with a single organization.

The two argued that the act would replace the current system’s “patchwork,” ’ in which no single voice guides the food safety oversight process The new agency would better contain the inspection, enforcement, and labeling branches which are currently run under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service.

“The Safe Food Act that Congresswoman DeLauro and I are introducing would transfer and consolidate food safety authorities for inspections, enforcement, labeling and research into a single food safety agency,” said Durbin. “That would allow us to prioritize system-wide food safety goals and targets. It would also help families navigate the differing federal, state, and local food safety agencies to get the answers they deserve.”

The measure follows other attempts by the pair to reform the current system, including efforts to pass such legislation in 1999, 2004, 2005, and 2007.

“Lives are unnecessarily put at risk and the need for reform becomes more urgent. I am proud to join Senator Durbin in introducing this bill to ensure that we have a single person being held accountable for food safety, research, prevention, inspections, investigations and labeling. We need a commonsense, 21st century way of ensuring food safety and a single food safety agency is it,” Delauro added.

The legislation is receiving considerable support from industry and consumer advocacy groups, and Durbin and Delauro are hoping for broader bipartisan support than in years past.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, the food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), said that “It’s crazy to have one cabinet secretary in charge of chicken, beef, and pepperoni pizza, and another cabinet secretary responsible for eggs, milk, and cheese pizza…It ensures all food processors utilize systems to prevent contamination, and when problems occur, creates a uniform approach to ensuring food safety, including mandatory recall authority for meat and poultry products.”

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) also chimed in with support for the bill. Chris Waldrop, director of the food policy institute at CFA said that he saw the move as a logical step to improve help and governmental focus and efficiency.

“We need one independent agency focused on the safety of the entire food supply,” he said, “[It” would allow us to better focus our resources where the greatest risks lie.”