Food Safety: Experiences of Seven Countries in Consolidating Their Food Safety Systems

GAO-05-212 Published: Feb 22, 2005. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 2005.
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The safety and quality of the U.S. food supply are governed by a complex system that is administered by 15 agencies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), have primary responsibility for food safety. Many legislative proposals have been made to consolidate the U.S. food safety system, but to date no other action has been taken. Several countries have taken steps to streamline and consolidate their food safety systems. In 1999, we reported on the initial experiences of four of these countries--Canada, Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Since then, additional countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, have undertaken consolidations. This report describes the approaches and challenges these countries faced in consolidating food safety functions, including the benefits and costs cited by government officials and other stakeholders. In commenting on a draft of this report, HHS and USDA said that the countries' consolidation experiences have limited applicability to the U.S. food safety system because the countries are much smaller than the United States. The two agencies believe that they are working together effectively to ensure the safety of the food supply.

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