Food Safety:

Fundamental Changes Needed to Improve Monitoring of Unsafe Chemicals in Food

T-RCED-94-311: Published: Sep 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1994.

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GAO discussed the need to improve the effectiveness of the federal food safety system, focusing on the: (1) Department of Agriculture's National Residue Program (NRP) for monitoring chemical residues in meat and poultry; and (2) overall federal structure for controlling chemicals in all foods. GAO noted that: (1) NRP has weaknesses in testing and sampling, as well as in the support it receives from regulatory agencies; (2) NRP test results are not as useful as they should be; (3) other agencies provide limited support to NRP; (4) the fragmentation of responsibility across many agencies impedes the identification of chemical risks; (5) problems in the legal and regulatory structure compromise efforts to reduce risk; (6) increased focus on prevention is a better approach to ensuring food safety than end product testing; (7) federal enforcement efforts do not provide the backup that is necessary to ensure compliance with federal food safety standards when violations occur; and (8) the problems in the domestic food safety system are also relevant for imported foods because federal agencies have even less control over the production of imported foods.

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