In its proposed Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations released June 20, the Trump Administration proposed reorganizing the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the food safety functions of the FDA into a single agency within USDA, which would cover virtually all the foods Americans eat. With a goal to address the “fragmented and illogical division of Federal oversight” of food safety, the USDA was selected to lead the consolidated Federal Food Safety Agency because “it demonstrates strong and effective leadership in food safety and maintains an expert understanding of food safety issues from the farm to the fork,” the plan states.
According to the plan,
- The Federal Food Safety Agency would pursue a modern, science-based food safety regulatory regime drawing on best practices of both USDA and HHS, with strong enforcement and recall mechanisms, expertise in risk assessment, and enforcement efforts across all food types based on scientifically-supported practices.
- It would serve as the central point for coordinating with state and local entities and food safety stakeholders, rationalizing and simplifying the federal food safety regulatory regime.
- The reform would reduce duplication of inspection at some food processing facilities, improve outreach to consumers and industry, and achieve savings over time while ensuring robust and coordinated food safety oversight.
- Consolidating FSIS and the food safety functions of FDA would allow for a better allocation of resources based on risk, better communication during illness outbreaks, and improved policy and program planning through development of a single strategic plan.
Further justification for USDA to lead the new agency included its many agencies within USDA focus on food safety; the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) spending of about $112 million on in-house food safety research, and its scientists who work with both FSIS and FDA to help develop research priorities and food safety practices. In addition, many other programs at USDA have food safety elements, and it has “established relationships between state departments of agriculture, local farms, and processing facilities, and is thus keenly aware of food safety issues at all levels.”
Following the food reorganization, FDA (which would be renamed the “Federal Drug Administration”) would focus on drugs, devices, biologics, tobacco, dietary supplements, and cosmetics.
The proposed consolidation would merge approximately 5,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees and $1.3 billion from FDA with about 9,200 FTEs and $1 billion in resources in USDA. In the long term, the Administration expects this proposal would result in improvements in food safety outcomes, policy and program consistency, and more efficient use of taxpayer resources.