Single Food Agency Idea Promoted Sat Congressional Hearing

Articles
March 15, 2012

Single Food Agency Idea Promoted Sat Congressional Hearing

A number of topics were discussed at the Congressional Subcommittee hearing recently to review the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Included was a discussion regarding the proposed Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule and the degree to which to FSIS participates in the negotiation of trade agreements.

A number of topics were discussed at the Congressional Subcommittee hearing recently to review the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Included was a discussion regarding the proposed Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule and the degree to which to FSIS participates in the negotiation of trade agreements. But it was the desirability of a single food safety agency that seemed to garner the most attention, according to The Food Institute.

Dr. Elisabeth A. Hagen, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety spoke a bit about the FSIS 5-year strategic plan, including the strategic themes of preventing foodborne illness, empowering people and strengthening infrastructure, and understanding and influencing the “farm to table continuum”.  Within these themes she made brief references to salmonella initiatives, a joint national multimedia campaign with the Department of Health and Human Services, the proposed rule for the Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection, streamlining operations with the Public Health Information System, and very brief references to the Food Safety Working Group.
 
Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming asked Dr. Hagen if it is time to move food safety matters out of FDA and into USDA.  Dr. Hagen responded that she did not know if one system was better than another, and that USDA is following current law.  She did note that there is room for collaboration and improvement of operations.

Connecticut Congresswoman DeLauro later repeated her interest in a single independent food safety agency, and invited Congresswoman Lummis to join her.

Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia also pointed to instances in which single facilities are subjected to inspection by both FSIS and FDA because of the products they produce.  He suggested that he would be willing to work with Congresswoman DeLauro and Dr. Hagen to develop report language as part of the FY 2013 bill that may help provide assistance in modifying the inspection burden.

Congressman Tom Graves also of Georgia later raised seafood inspection issues, and asked if the agencies involved in seafood inspection might also be included in a single food safety agency effort.  Congresswoman DeLauro said that is her intent.

The topic of creating a single food agency has come up numerous times in recent years and is certain to be the topic of conversation again in future months. It is however doubtful that anything substantial will be initiated on this front during 2012 – a Presidential election year.