by Marion Nestle
Mar 28 2009

Fixing the food safety system: new ideas

The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announce the release of a new report on how to fix the food safety system.  The report, Keeping America’s Food Safe: A Blueprint for Fixing the Food Safety System at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), makes a bunch of suggestions for strengthening the FDA.  The FDA, it says, needs to concentrate resources on the highest risks, enforce existing rules (what a concept), establish a position with authority over all food safety programs in the agency, and work with Congress to establish a Food Safety Administration within HHS.

Wait a minute: I thought two agencies were involved in food safety regulation.  Yes, HHS regulates most foods through the FDA, but the USDA regulates meat and poultry.  These are not two separate food systems. Wastes from food animals (USDA-regulated) contaminate fruits and vegetables (FDA-regulated).

Don’t we need one system?  I think we do.

And buried in the mess of bills submitted to Congress and currently under consideration (handily summarized by Bill Marler), are several aimed at doing just that.  This is a great time to weigh in on them, especially since polls show that nearly 75% of Americans are more afraid of food than they are of terrorists.

  • Jon

    What I don’t get is why terrorists don’t poison the food supply. A little bit of E. coli O157 would infect a lot of people.

    I honestly think nutrition should be left to the FDA, and promoting agricultural consumption should be left to the USDA. It would avoid these conflicts of interest. Who knows? We might even get nutrition guidelines that say all excess calories are fattening.

  • Jennifer

    Regarding HR 875, there is a lot of viral email activity surrounding this bill as it is being hailed as the “Bill to Outlaw Organic Farming”. I have read a summary of the bill and tried to slog through the text of the bill itself and am wondering what is the real impact of this proposed law?
    If indeed it gives the government the ability to shut down an organic farm or a backyard veggie garden, then of course this is a heinous law. I am not sure that this bill would empower the government to do this, but as a layperson, I cannot be sure.
    How is it possible for a citizen to know the difference between a good bill and a bad one?