The heads of the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have come to a formal agreement that aims to make the oversight of food more efficient and effective by boosting coordination between the two agencies. The agreement lays out ways to increase interagency collaboration, efficiency and effectiveness on produce safety and biotechnology activities, while providing clarity to manufacturers.
While the USDA oversees the safety of most meat, poultry, catfish and certain egg products, the FDA has authority over all other foods, among them dairy, seafood, produce and packaged items. The USDA and the FDA already work together in many key areas, including the implementation of produce safety measures.
“Today, Commissioner Gottlieb and I signed a formal agreement to promote coordination and the streamlining of capacities and obligations on shared concerns and jurisdiction,” noted USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act and assigned responsibilities to the USDA and the FDA. The USDA has the knowledge and expertise to support the FDA’s work related to farming. We at the USDA have a motto: Do Right, and Feed Everyone. We believe this joint effort will help us move one step closer to that goal.”
“Secretary Perdue and I share a deep commitment to further strengthening our nation’s food safety system in the most effective and transparent way,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “Over the last several months, the Secretary and I have worked closely and identified several areas where we can strengthen our collaboration to make our processes more efficient, predictable and potentially lower-cost to industry, while also strengthening our efforts to ensure food safety. This agreement not only formalizes this ongoing coordination, but presents a great opportunity to expand those efforts through better integration and increased clarity to the agriculture and food processing sectors. Our coordination with these sectors plays an integral role in helping to keep our nation’s food supply safe and secure.”
In its bid to streamline regulatory responsibilities and use government resources more efficiently to protect public health, the agreement sets out to reduce the number of establishments subject to the dual regulatory requirements of USDA and FDA. For instance, when a canned-soup facility manufactures both chicken noodle soup and tomato soup, it’s currently subject to regulation by both agencies. Under the agreement, both organizations will work to solve such issues while maintaining safety standards for dual-jurisdiction facilities. Greater coordination can reduce costs on industry and free government resources to better target risk areas, according to the agencies.
The agreement calls for FDA and USDA to better align and enhance their efforts to develop regulatory approaches to biotechnology, and to improve their collaboration and cooperation regarding produce safety. FDA is in the midst of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which moves the organization from reacting to foodborne illness to preventing it. Under FSMA, FDA coordinates with state and/or territorial government agencies, which will conduct most farm inspections under FSMA’s Produce Safety rule.