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Proposal would unite all food oversight into new agency

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Lawmakers are looking to restructure a conglomerate of food safety agencies and merge them into a single, more effective agency. U.S. Rep. Rosa Delauro and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin introduced this new legislation, which supports moving food safety functions from the Food and Drug Administration, and establishing a new Food Safety Administration under the Department of Health and Human Resources.

While introducing the legislation, Durbin said, “In recent years, FDA has been plagued by one failure after another — from a failure to properly recognize the dangers of prescription opioids, to a failure to protect children from e-cigarette products, to a failure to properly ensure the safety of our nation’s food supply,” Durbin said. “The sad reality is that the FDA seems unwilling or unable to use their authority to protect Americans from preventable illness and death. For that reason, Congresswoman DeLauro and I are introducing legislation to transfer all of FDA’s food responsibilities to a new agency that, we hope, will have more success in protecting the foods in our kids’ lunch boxes and on our dining room tables.”


What would the FSA replace?

The newly proposed Food Safety Administration would include the Center for Food and Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the Office of Regulatory Affairs. All leadership appointments would require Senate confirmation, with the administration headed by the president.

In this proposed legislation, the Food and Drug Administration would take the more straightforward name of the Federal Drug Administration, simply overseeing drugs, cosmetics, devices, bioproducts, color additives, and tobacco products.

“Food safety is currently a second-class citizen at the Food and Drug Administration,” DeLauro said. “Right now, there are no food policy experts in charge of food safety at the FDA. That is unacceptable and contributes to a string of product contaminations and subsequent recalls that disrupt the supply chain, contribute to rising prices and, in many cases, result in consumer illness and death. Look no further than the recent infant formula crisis to understand the need to create a single food safety agency, led by a food policy expert, to ensure the safety of products that go to market.”

»Related: Response to USDA’s new food-system plan highlights policy divide


Why they say the current system doesn’t work

Robert Califf, the commissioner of Food and Drugs, pointed to the infant formula crisis, stating that the situation made the need for a restructured food program clear. During the 2022 FDLI Annual Conference, Califf said, “I want to be clear: the infant formula shortage on our shelves was multifactorial, including loss of focus on quality by a major company, market concentration, supply chain resilience issues, and inadequate federal authorities to assure vital supply chains.

However, the crisis also reveals shortcomings at the FDA, including structural and organizational deficiencies, process insufficiencies, communication barriers, technological inadequacies, chronic underfunding and in some cases a lack of congressional authority to allow us to do what is needed to assure an adequate supply of safe and nutritious infant formula.

We are currently conducting both a focused after-action review on infant formula and a comprehensive review of the entire food program to determine the best course of action. And when these reviews are completed, we will make whatever changes are necessary and that we have the ability to do.”

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