GAO reviewed the federal government's efforts to monitor harmful chemical residues in food, focusing on the: (1) methodologies and data used to identify chemical risks; (2) federal government's legal and regulatory structure; (3) federal government's enforcement processes; and (4) safety of imported foods.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|To overcome the fundamental weaknesses in the federal government's programs for monitoring chemical residues and environmental contaminants in food, Congress should enact a uniform set of food safety laws that includes consistent standards for chemical residues and contaminants in food and provides the federal agencies with the authorities needed to effectively carry out their oversight responsibilities.|
|Congress should consider the feasibility of requiring that all food eligible for import to the United States, not just meat and poultry, be produced under equivalent food safety systems.|
|The problems associated with the current fragmented system cannot be solved by individual agencies' efforts to respond to internal and external critics. Instead, these problems can be best addressed by a complete restructuring of the federal food safety system for chemical residues and environmental contaminants. Congress may wish to consider creating a single food safety agency responsible for carrying out the requirements of cohesive food safety laws.|
|Congress should revise the nature of the federal government's role for ensuring food safety by moving it away from end-product testing to preventing contamination from occurring. Under such an approach, the government would, among other things: (1) continue to approve chemicals and set tolerances; (2) oversee a mandatory, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based, industry-run food safety assurance program; and (3) assist industry in developing adequate test methods.|