Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The voice in the wilderness...

No wait.... That's not the wilderness. That's the Government Accountability Office (GAO) right there miles inside the Beltway, smack in the center of downtown Washington. Once again, today, the GAO patiently explained to Congress why it is crazy to have food safety authority split willy nilly between USDA and FDA, not to mention several other federal agencies with smaller roles. Here is the Congressional testimony of Robert A. Robinson, managing director of the natural resources and environment division:
In recent years, many proposals from the Congress and others have been made to reform existing laws and consolidate the governmental structure for ensuring the safety of the food supply. As we have reported in the past, the current system is fragmented and causes inefficient use of resources, inconsistent oversight and enforcement, and ineffective coordination. We have recommended that the Congress consider statutory and organizational reforms, and we continue to believe that the benefits of establishing a single national system for the regulation of our food supply outweigh the costs.
To illustrate the point, here is GAO's droll illustration of how USDA inspectors may walk through -- but not inspect -- the very room in a food processing factory that an FDA inspector must later visit to inspect. According to the testimony, "USDA and FDA conduct overlapping, and even duplicative, inspections at more than 1,400 domestic facilities that produce foods such as canned goods and frozen entrees."

GAO food safety

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