Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Safe Food Act, Has Its Time Come?

virginia asked:
"where is the "redesign" archived, and could it be re-introduced?"

This is the full text of Senate Bill S654, from last Congress (110th):

Safe Food Act of 2007

It has been introduced into Congress in some form since 1999. It has never risen to the level of a vote in either House or Senate that I know of. No food crisis has ever been big enough for it to command attention. That's a shame.

One reason I think it has never gone anywhere is that it consolidates, or brings together under one roof, all the food safety activities of a variety of agencies. (When you have one agency, the FDA, assuring the safety of closed-faced sandwiches and another agency, the USDA, assuring the safety of open-faced sandwiches (No lie), you have lots of redundancy and wasteful spending.) But I guess no agency wants to give up control, and associated funding, of a portion of their reign.

So, you get what happened during the melamine-in-pet-food problem. You collect representatives from FDA/CFSAN, USDA/FSIS, CDC, Vet Medicine, probably HHS, maybe EPA, and others, put them into a room for a press conference, and hope everyone gets along and reaches agreement. What happens? People point fingers and speak at cross purposes. There's no line of command for these groups who work for different bosses, in different settings, in different work cultures. Someone from the USDA has no authority over someone from the FDA, and vice-versa.

The FDA (closed-faced sandwiches) requested recall authority from Congress in 2007. Congress failed to act. The USDA (open-faced sandwiches) said they weren't even interested in having authority to recall, but if they decided they wanted it, they would have to write a parallel document, have it introduced to the House and Senate, discussed, debated, passed, funded - all separate from the FDA's effort. We, the taxpayer, pay for these redundant efforts. We, the public, fall victim to the holes in the system this structures creates.

A few more examples ... USDA regulates chickens; FDA regulates whole eggs; USDA regulates processed eggs. USDA regulates cheese pizza, FDA regulates pepperoni pizza.

You get the picture. We're wasting money and risking the public's health running food safety like this. No one wants to stand up and take responsibility for all of America's food. If there is any area that is crying our for leadership, it's food safety.

(You got me started, virginia.)

1 comment:

Bix said...

When I look back on things I said in the past, I cringe at my arrogance. Every day I learn, and every day I realize how little I know. It's been humbling. Anyway, I wasn't present in the House or Senate to know how this Bill, or versions of it, were handled. How it was or wasn't discussed and debated, what votes were taken. I may have read things, but in truth, I don't know.