GAO Calls Food Safety Working Group Positive First Step

GAO Calls Food Safety Working Group Positive First Step

Fragmentation in food safety oversight still needs more governmental planning.

The General Accountability Office has released a report to Congress examining the work that has been done by the Food Safety Working Group since its formation in May 2009. The goal of the working group was to increase collaboration between agencies and coordinate efforts to establish food safety goals.

This report says that the group has failed to develop a government-wide plan for food safety that is mission-based. The key findings of the Food Safety Working Group that were released in July  2009 did outline several aspects of a federal food safety plan. However, GAO says those goals were not results oriented and not measurable. They also found that the group has not provided information about the resources that will be needed to achieve these goals.

 GAO has suggested that Congress consider commissioning the National Academy of Sciences or a blue ribbon panel to conduct a detailed analysis of alternative organizational structures for food safety. Some of the alternative organizational structures include a single food safety agency, a food safety inspection agency, a data collection and risk analysis center, and a coordination mechanism led by a central chair.

The January signing of new food safety legislation does strengthen the food safety system, but GAO says it doesn't apply to the federal system as a whole or create the needed risk-based food safety structure.  GAO recommends that the Director of OMB, in consultation with the federal food safety agencies, develop a government-wide performance plan for food safety that includes results oriented goals and performance measures for food safety oversight and a discussion about strategies and resources.

To view the entire GAO report, click HERE.

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