GAO Report Advocates for Single Federal Food Safety Agency

To improve the nation's access to safe food, the General Accountability Office is recommending in a new report the creation of a single federal agency to oversee it and run a unified food-safety system.

The GAO targeted the inefficiencies of keeping up a patchwork system of different federal food safety agencies up and running as part of a larger effort to identify programs, agencies, offices and initiatives that overlap. The report was submitted on Friday to Congress.

In it, the GAO said that it takes about 15 federal agencies to run at least 30 food-related laws. The budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration was - wait for it - a total of more than $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2009.

At the same time, according to the report, "three major trends also create food safety challenges. First, a substantial and increasing portion of the U.S. food supply is imported. Second, consumers are eating more raw and minimally processed foods. Third, segments of the population that are particularly susceptible to food-borne illnesses, such as older adults and immune-compromised individuals, are growing."

[ Full text of the 32-page report: Federal Food Safety Oversight: Food Safety Working Group Is a Positive First Step but Governmentwide Planning Is Needed to Address FragmentationGAO-11-289 March 18, 2011]

Source:Los Angeles Times