President Barack Obama wants to create a new government agency dedicated to keeping the nation’s food safe.
The proposal in the president’s budget released Monday comes after outbreaks of illnesses linked to chicken, eggs, peanuts and cantaloupe in recent years. More than a dozen federal agencies oversee food safety, and consumer advocates have long called for bringing all those functions together in a single home.
Currently, the Department of Agriculture oversees the safety and inspections of meat and processed eggs and the Food and Drug Administration oversees safety of most other foods. The split oversight is often complicated — the FDA would be responsible for the safety of a frozen cheese pizza, for example, but USDA takes over part of the duties if the pizza has meat on it.
USDA inspects meat daily as it is processed, while the FDA generally conducts inspections every few years. The two agencies share inspection duties at the border. And several other agencies have small pieces of food safety oversight — from the Commerce Department to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The budget proposes consolidating the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and all of FDA’s food safety oversight into one new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The new agency also would coordinate with state and local health departments, a job that is now mostly handled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.