The New York Times had an interesting article on this topic on Saturday, and here are some excerpts from it (to read the full story, click here):
The problem, it seems, is that the Department of Agriculture gets a huge hunk of the federal budget, but is only responsible for about 20 percent of our food. The rest falls under the Food and Drug Administration, which concentrates most of its much smaller budget on drugs and devices.
In 1999, the Government Accountability Office (then called the General Accounting Office) issued a report called “U.S. Needs a Single Agency to Administer a Unified, Risk-Based Inspection System.”
“The fragmented system was not developed under any rational plan but was patched together over many years to address specific health threats from particular food products,” the report said. Efforts to address food safety, it says, are “hampered by inconsistent and inflexible oversight and enforcement authorities, inefficient resource use and ineffective coordination.”
It went nowhere. In the decade since, the problems have only worsened. As food imports have soared, the number of inspectors has declined as budgets have been cut.
“Food safety is beneath three levels of bureaucracy at H.H.S.,” Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro said recently. “It needs to have its own function.” She added: “There is no high-ranking food safety official in the U.S. government. There is no one accountable.”