Federal agencies with overlapping regulatory authority for food safety efforts have announced that they will be collaborating to better coordinate and streamline processes for food recalls, in an attempt to make them more predictable and lower the costs incurred by the industry, while strengthening efforts to ensure food safety nationwide.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released details of a formal agreement on January 30, committing to work together to improve food safety across the U.S. and to jointly oversee the nation’s food supply.
The agreement was signed by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb at the White House this week. It outlines planned efforts to increase inter-agency collaboration, efficiency and effectiveness on produce safety and biotechnology activities, while providing clarity to manufacturers.
Prior to the agreement, both agencies regulated different aspects of the food industry that commonly overlapped, causing dual regulatory requirements. The USDA was tasked with overseeing the safety of most meat, poultry, catfish, and certain egg products while the FDA had authority over all other food products such as dairy, seafood, produce, and package goods.
The agreement between the agencies will better help streamline regulation and reduce inspection inefficiencies while upholding safety standards for dual-jurisdiction facilities. The agreement is expected to also lower costs on the food industry and to better utilize government resources to target efforts to areas at risk.
Gottlieb indicated that he has been in communication with Perdue over the last several months, and that the two determined that there were several areas where they could coordinate to make the agencies’ processes more efficient and transparent.
The agreement seeks to approve the two agencies’ collaboration and cooperation on produce safety activities to address thousands of Salmonella and Listeria outbreaks across the nation annually. Through collaboration and the jurisdiction granted under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), officials will aim to shift the food safety paradigm from a reactionary standpoint, to a preventative standpoint.
Both agencies are also committing resources to better enhance and align their efforts to develop regulatory approaches to biotechnology, outlined in the 2016 National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products.