FDA, USDA Partner to Improve Food Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have worked closely over the years with the view to oversee US food supply. On January 30, 2018, they have announced a formal agreement to increase interaction and collaboration on food safety and biotechnology activities. This is a major step towards food safety improvement but what does it mean in detail?

While the USDA has authority of most meat, poultry, catfish and certain egg products, the FDA oversees other foods like dairy, seafood, produce and packaged foods. However, the USDA and FDA have been collaborating for some time in many key areas, including the implementation of produce safety measures and biotechnology efforts. As a result, many food processors in the US are subject to regulation by both agencies which sometimes leads to confusion. Take for example, a manufacturer who produces frozen pizza. While a classic cheese pizza is handled by the FDA, the USDA gets involved when meat is added to the pizza. The result: Two different regulators with different inspection schemes and testing methods.

Now, nearly two months after the collaboration had been announced, things are about to change. Experts believe that a successful implementation of this initiative could lead to less paperwork for food processors and a reduction of costs. Moreover, food safety issues like recalls could be handled in a more effective way - at the moment, only the FDA has recall authority, the USDA can only request a recall.

Some experts also believe that this agreement could be a first step toward a single food safety agency. In summary, the new initiative is not only about improving food safety, it is also about reducing inspection inefficiencies and identifying ways to optimize the regulations.