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U.S. Food Safety: A Shopping List of Solutions
Date:1/16/2008

nable to guarantee the safety of all foods sold in the United States, critics contend.

Solutions to the problem fall into two broad categories: government-mandated reforms and reforms generated by the food industry itself. How these reforms would be implemented depends on whether the food is grown domestically or abroad.

The most widely discussed reforms include creating a new "superagency" that would oversee food safety (right now that responsibility is divided between the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture); increasing funding, and thereby staffing, at the FDA; and giving the FDA recall authority for tainted food products.

For its part, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the nation's top food producers, unveiled a four-pronged plan in September that it said was designed to better safeguard food imports. Features include giving foreign countries and firms with good safety records expedited clearance through U.S. inspections, thereby allowing the FDA to "focus more on products that present the biggest risk;" and bolstering efforts within foreign countries to improve safety standards overseas.

A Federal 'Superagency' With Oversight

The most frequently mentioned reform calls for bringing food inspections under one tent. Right now, the FDA and the USDA work in separate, often overlapping, fiefdoms when it comes to overseeing food safety. Complicating matters, the USDA receives 80 percent of the food safety budget to regulate 20 percent of the food supply, while the FDA receives 20 percent of the budget to oversee 80 percent of the nation's food.

The idea of such a "superagency" has numerous supporters, including Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

"[Federal agencies] are stumbling over themselves," Milano said. "There's a huge opportunity for efficiencies to be
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