Federal Food Safety Oversight: Food Safety Working Group Is a Positive First Step but Governmentwide Planning Is Needed to Address Fragmentation

GAO-11-289 Published: Mar 18, 2011. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 2011.
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For more than a decade, GAO has reported on the fragmented nature of federal food safety oversight and how it results in inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources. In 2007, GAO added this issue to its high-risk list. In March 2009, the President established the Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) to coordinate federal efforts and establish food safety goals to make food safer. Section 21 of Public Law 111-139 mandated that GAO identify programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicative goals and activities. This review examines: (1) steps, if any, that the FSWG has taken to increase collaboration among federal food safety agencies, and (2) options we and others have identified to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication in food safety oversight. GAO reviewed information about the FSWG and alternative organizational structures for food safety, and conducted interviews.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget In order to improve collaboration among federal agencies on food safety oversight and provide an integrated perspective on this crosscutting issue, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with the federal agencies that have food safety responsibilities, should develop a governmentwide performance plan for food safety. The performance plan should include results-oriented goals and performance measures for food safety oversight throughout the federal government, as well as a discussion about strategies and resources. It should be updated on an annual basis.
Closed – Not Implemented
As of July 22, 2015, OMB had not developed a governmentwide performance plan for food safety. Because no action had been taken on this by late 2014, we elevated the recommendation to a matter for congressional consideration in our 2014 report, "Federal Food Safety Oversight: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Planning and Collaboration"(GAO-15-180), but it remains unaddressed.

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