New Food Safety Agency Proposed By Lawmakers

Several U.S. lawmakers have proposed new legislation that seeks to consolidate all food-related laws under one new agency, in an effort to streamline and bring uniformity to food regulations and reduce the risk of food poisoning nationwide. 

The “Safe Food Act of 2015” (PDF) was introduced yesterday by Senator Richard Durbin, of Illinois, and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro, of Connecticut, both Democrats. The proposed bill would remove food safety oversight from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and remove meat and poultry oversight from the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). An entirely new agency would be created to regulate those areas, led by a presidential appointment.

In all, current food regulations are actually split over 15 different agencies, the lawmakers claim.

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“Government has a responsibility to keep our families safe from foodborne illness,” Rep. DeLauro said in a press release. “One reason we have not been able to do so is that our food safety system is hopelessly fragmented and outdated. Consequently, lives are unnecessarily put at risk and the need for reform becomes more urgent.”

The lawmakers claim the new agency would make the food chain safer and make food regulatory processes run smoother, hopefully reducing large numbers of food poisoning outbreaks in the U.S.

According to Durbin and DeLauro, about 48 million people in the U.S. will get sick from food borne illness this year. That’s one out of every six. About 128,000 of those people will be hospitalized, and 3,000 of them will die.

“The fragmented nature of our food safety system has left us more vulnerable to the risk of foodborne illness. It has too often forced citizens to go it alone in the case of an outbreak,” Senator Durbin said. “The Safe Food Act that Congresswoman DeLauro and I are introducing today would transfer and consolidate food safety authorities for inspections, enforcement, labeling, and research into a single food safety agency.”

Durbin said the move would allow regulators to prioritize system-wide food safety goals and make it easier for families to understand the safety of their food.

The act would create an agency with the power to recall unsafe food, instead of having to cajole companies into voluntary recalls, improve foreign food import inspections, put in place a system to track food in order to better identify the source of food poisoning outbreaks, and strengthen contaminant performance standards.

Fifth Time May Be The Charm

This is the fifth time since 1999 that Sen. Durbin and Rep. DeLauro have introduced similar food safety legislation, which has failed to go forward every time. The last attempt was in 2007.

However, this time it comes on the heels of bipartisan passage of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which was signed into law in December 2010.

The act was the biggest change in food safety oversight in 70 years and gave the FDA sweeping new powers regarding food poisoning outbreaks and inspections.

This is the first time Sen. Durbin and Rep. DeLauro have attempted to create a single food agency since the Food Safety and Modernization Act was passed.


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