White House Plan Calls for Unified Food Agency

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Jun 25, 2018

The White House's Office of Management and Budget today (June 25) unveiled a master government reform and reorganization plan that includes combining USDA and part of FDA into a single food agency.

"Having to work through multiple federal agencies to conduct business or solve simple problems is not an efficient or effective use of taxpayer resources," OMB said in a separate introduction to the document. "For example, a poultry company in Georgia has to fill out separate paperwork because chickens and eggs are regulated by different federal agencies. And because of the toppings, a frozen cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza are regulated by different agencies. There needs to be a better way."

32 better ways are spotlighted in "Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations." The 132-page document apparently is the agency's response to Executive Order 13781, titled “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” which "highlights the need to evaluate the organizational constructs that support today’s mission delivery objectives."

If the numerical order of the subjects is an indication of priority, top billing goes to "Merge the Departments of Education and Labor into a single Cabinet agency, the Department of Education and the Workforce."

No. 4 on the list was "Reorganize the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the food safety functions of HHS’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into a single agency within USDA that would cover virtually all the foods Americans eat."

Also of note was Item 2: "Move the non-commodity nutrition assistance programs currently in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service into the Department of Health and Human Services—which will be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare."

As background and justification for the single food agency, OMB writes, "For more than forty years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that the fragmented Federal oversight of food safety 'has caused inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources,' and food safety has been on GAO’s list of high-risk areas since 2007. FSIS and FDA are the two primary agencies with major responsibilities for regulating food and the substances that may become part of food. FSIS is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, processed egg products, and catfish, while FDA is responsible for all other foods, including seafood and shelled eggs.

"There are many examples of how illogical our fragmented and sometimes duplicative food safety system can be. For example: while FSIS has regulatory responsibility for the safety of liquid eggs, FDA has regulatory responsibility for the safety of eggs while they are inside of their shells; FDA regulates cheese pizza, but if there is pepperoni on top, it falls under the jurisdiction of FSIS; FDA regulates closed-faced meat sandwiches, while FSIS regulates open-faced meat sandwiches.

"To address this fragmented and illogical division of Federal oversight, FSIS and the food safety functions of the FDA would be consolidated into a single agency within USDA called the Federal Food Safety Agency.

"GAO and other experts have recommended merging Federal food safety functions as a potential solution to this fragmentation. The National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine (now known as the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) have recommended that the core Federal food safety responsibilities should reside in a single entity or agency, with a unified administrative structure, clear mandate, a dedicated budget, and full responsibility for the oversight of the entire U.S. food supply."

Back to the introduction of the document, OMB notes, "While some of the recommendations identified in this volume can be achieved via executive administrative action, more significant changes will require legislative action as well. By sharing key findings, the Administration offers this report as a cornerstone to build productive, bipartisan dialogue around realigning the Federal Government mission delivery model to make sense in the 21st Century."

And, "some of the proposals are ready for agency implementation, others establish a vision for the Executive Branch that will require further exploration and partnership with the Congress."

The entire document is available at www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Government-Reform-and-Reorg-Plan.pdf.

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