Monitoring and Enforcing Food Safety--An Overview of Past Studies

RCED-83-153: Published: Sep 9, 1983. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 1983.

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GAO conducted a study which provided an overview of food safety regulation problems and cataloged major federal food safety programs and their costs. In addition, past recommendations for statutory, organizational, and administrative changes were discussed as well as any changes that resulted and issues that remain to be addressed.

The major federal agencies involved in regulating food safety estimated that food safety programs would cost approximately $436 million and 12,500 staff years in fiscal year (FY) 1982. However, real dollars devoted to food safety programs have declined between FY's 1977 and 1982. Federal food safety regulation is often duplicative and sometimes contradictory, costly, and unduly complex. Changes suggested by past study groups have included consolidating programs in one agency, amending food regulation statutes to make them consistent and to increase agency authority, and increasing the use of interagency agreements and standing interagency coordinating committees. To date, organizational or legislative changes responding to study recommendations have not been made, although the agencies have taken some steps to address specific problems. GAO found that many agencies did not: (1) have sufficient data to identify their regulatory scope or critical problem areas requiring attention; (2) manage agency staff efficiently and effectively; (3) investigate violators' corrective action effectively; or (4) have criteria to guide decisions about proceeding with enforcement against violators. Agency efforts to improve food regulation have also been constrained by scientific considerations.

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