Food Safety:

A Unified, Risk-Based Food Safety System Needed

T-RCED-94-223: Published: May 25, 1994. Publicly Released: May 25, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the need to improve the federal food safety system. GAO noted that: (1) the current food safety system impedes efforts to address existing and newly identified food safety risks because of inconsistent and inflexible oversight and enforcement authorities, inefficient resource use, and ineffective coordination; (2) the government should create a single, independent food safety agency responsible for enforcing a uniform set of laws to resolve longstanding problems, dealing with emerging food safety issues, and ensuring a safe food supply; (3) consolidating food safety activities under an existing department is more likely because of the problems in establishing a new, independent agency, but consolidation has its own set of problems; (4) the reorganization should be based on the federal government's commitment to consumer protection, adequate resources devoted to that purpose, and the responsible agency's competent and aggressive administration of food safety laws; (5) food safety inspections should not be consolidated under the Department of Agriculture because of the potential conflict of interest with its agriculture promotion responsibilities; (6) the Food and Drug Administration does not have an organizational conflict of interest, but its increased regulatory responsibilities have outpaced its resources and authorities; and (7) the current food safety laws need to be revised to make them uniform, consistent, and risk-based.

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