Federal Oversight of Food Safety: FDA's Food Protection Plan Proposes Positive First Steps, but Capacity to Carry Them Out Is Critical

GAO-08-435T Published: Jan 29, 2008. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 2008.
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Highlights

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring the safety of roughly 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, including $417 billion worth of domestic food and $49 billion in imported food annually. The recent outbreaks of E. coli in spinach, Salmonella in peanut butter, and contamination in pet food highlight the risks posed by the accidental contamination of FDA-regulated food products. Changing demographics and consumption patterns underscore the urgency for effective food safety oversight. In response to these challenges, in November 2007, FDA and others released plans that discuss the oversight of food safety. FDA's Food Protection Plan sets a framework for food safety oversight. In addition, FDA's Science Board released FDA Science and Mission at Risk, which concluded that FDA does not have the capacity to ensure the safety of the nation's food supply. This testimony focuses on (1) federal oversight of food safety as a high-risk area that needs a governmentwide reexamination, (2) FDA's opportunities to better leverage its resources, (3) FDA's Food Protection Plan, and (4) tools that can help agencies to address management challenges. To address these issues, GAO interviewed FDA officials; evaluated the Food Protection Plan using a GAO guide for assessing agencies' performance plans; and reviewed pertinent statutes and reports. GAO also analyzed data on FDA inspections and resources.

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