Jurisdiction conflicts detract from optimal safety
Currently there is a conflict of jurisdiction among the US
Department of Agriculture-Food Safety and Inspection Service the Food and Drug
Administration and other agencies. This highly artificial state of bureaucratic
division is, in the opinion of critics, an inherent flaw which detracts from
optimal safety. Naturally the spokespersons and administrators at the USDA
oppose any move towards consolidation as this would represent loss in budgets
and employees which represent the metric of power in government
Defra emerged out of the BSE disaster
Following the BSE
debacle and further sensitized by the mishandling of the outbreak of the 2000
foot-and-mouth disease in the UK, Prime Minister Tony Blair eliminated the
Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries and established a new entity, the
Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with a separate Food
Authority responsible for the entire chain extending from producer to
Does the US need a new food safety agency?
If a new Cabinet level agency responsible for food safety would
be created in the USA it would parallel the Environmental Protection Agency,
which since its inception, has been subject to critical pressures and conflicts
relating to formulation and oversight of regulations, but has made great strides
in protecting the public interest.
The recent E. coli outbreak highlights deficiencies in the
current system which involves a range of agencies including the USDA, the FDA
and the Centers for Disease Control, a component of the Department of Health and
Human Services, in addition to state departments of health and agriculture.
As the complex inter-relationship between intensive dairy
production and large-scale cultivation of vegetables becomes apparent, difficult
decisions will be necessary which may impact the structure of the agricultural
industry in California which is responsible for a considerable proportion of the
Nation's food supply.
Establishing a new "mega-agency" would have to represent more
than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Legislators are disinclined to create a new single body
responsible for food safety as the USDA, FDA and other agencies have engendered
strong support to maintain the status quo.
Four years after the establishment of the Department of
Homeland Security, involving the merger of components of five previous
Departments, citizens and commentators are questioning whether America has
achieved a higher level of safety.
A new comprehensive food agency would have to have strong
legislative support, and follow a clearly defined agenda which would inevitably
conflict with vested commercial and governmental interests in agriculture and
the food industry. The administrators of any new entity would have to be
unfettered by unrealistic and partisan demands. Some mechanism would have to be
developed to free the program of food inspection from the current tyranny of
unions which demand job security and are opposed to more efficient science-based
methods of ensuring wholesomeness of food products.
Single comprehensive and independent
agencies, run according to scientific principles of epidemiology and risk
assessment to ensure safety of food are necessary in the context of intensified
production systems, emerging pathogens and international trade.
By: Simon Shane