Food Safety and Quality:

Innovative Strategies May Be Needed to Regulate New Food Technologies

RCED-93-142: Published: Jul 26, 1993. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on new food technologies, focusing on: (1) types of new technologies; (2) the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) response to new food technologies and the processes it uses to determine whether they protect consumers; and (3) unresolved regulatory issues.

GAO found that: (1) in response to changes in consumer demographics and dietary preferences, the food industry has developed new foods and food ingredients and new methods of producing, processing, preserving, and packaging foods; (2) FDA has applied existing regulations and monitoring policies to new food technology products, conducted and sponsored research, and added new quality and safety oversight staff in response to new food technologies; (3) FDA response to new food technologies has resulted in several controversial and unanswered scientific and regulatory issues, including whether the existing regulatory framework for food and food ingredients is adequate for ensuring the safety of new food technologies and FDA enforcement efforts are adequate to oversee new technologies introduced into the marketplace; and (4) a review of the existing FDA regulatory framework could identify innovative strategies for protecting consumers' health, fostering new food technology development, and evaluating the adequacy of FDA enforcement resources.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Numerous hearings have taken place this year, and proposed legislation is under consideration by Congress to revamp the federal food safety system, including establishing a single food safety agency. However, the Congress has not established a panel, as GAO recommended.

    Matter: Congress should create a blue ribbon panel to develop a model for inspection and food safety enforcement on the basis of the public health risks posed by food products and processes. As part of the panel's mandate, Congress may wish to direct the panel to review the regulatory framework for food and food ingredients and to explore innovative strategies for regulating new food technologies, such as the creation of an expedited premarket notification system.


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