President Barack Obama makes the case for a new agency dedicated to food safety in his budget proposal for fiscal 2016.
The agency would siphon off the biggest federal players in food safety, the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration’s food-safety components. The new organization would fall under the Health and Human Services Department.
More than a dozen agencies currently play roles in enforcing at least 30 food-...
More than a dozen agencies currently play roles in enforcing at least 30 food- safety laws, the budget says. But it makes the case that FSIS and the FDA are the most intertwined and confused.
For example, FSIS handles meat and poultry inspection. The FDA mostly sticks to fruits, vegetables and seafood. But, while FSIS inspects processed egg products, like those that come in a carton, the FDA oversees eggs in their shells. FSIS inspects the making of packaged, open-face sandwiches. FDA handles the closed-face ones.
The new agency would take control of the everyday inspections as well as coordinate responses to food crises, according to the budget.
Some food-safety advocates already oppose the plan. Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter says it’s a step backward.
“President Nixon first proposed this idea in the 1970’s and Congress wisely rejected it then; we urge this Congress to do the same. FDA and FSIS have different inspection cultures, and trying to merge the two could weaken FSIS inspection standards that offer consumers protections they do not get in any other sector of the food supply,” she said in a statement.
Congress would have to approve the merger before the new agency could form.
Budget revives concept of a business-and-trade agency
The fiscal 2016 budget renews the call for a one-stop shop for all business and trade issues. President Obama first proposed the idea in 2012, but has never convinced Congress. His plan would merge the business-related agencies of the Commerce Department with the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade Development Agency.
Rather than waiting for lawmakers to change their mind, the Obama administration has taken steps in this direction, the budget says. Agencies are reorganizing their offices and staff. They have come together to open an online portal, business.gov, to serve as a one-stop shop for related services.