For Immediate Release: February 4, 2009
Trust for America's Health Champions DeLauro Bill to Establish Food Safety Administration
WASHINGTON, DC - - Trust for America's Health (TFAH) issued a letter today in support of Rep. Rosa DeLauro's (CT-3) "Food Safety Modernization Act," introduced today, which would establish a Food Safety Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to modernize the nation's fractured and failing food safety system. The latest outbreak of Salmonella found in peanut butter products, along with the nationwide Salmonella outbreak in the summer 2008 highlight the need to modernize U.S. food safety policies and practices.
TFAH released a comprehensive report, Fixing Food Safety: Protecting America's Food Supply from Farm-to-Fork in 2008, identifying major gaps in the country's food safety system, including obsolete laws, misallocation of resources, and inconsistencies among major food safety agencies. The full report can be found at: http://healthyamericans.org/reports/foodsafety08/.
Below is the full text of TFAH's letter:
February 3, 2009
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro
2413 Rayburn House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congresswoman DeLauro:
On behalf of Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority, I would like to express our support for the "Food Safety Modernization Act." If passed, this act would establish a Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would have responsibility for all food safety issues currently administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
TFAH views food safety as a fundamental component of public health, as the security of our food supply affects every household. However, the nation's food safety system is in crisis. The current outbreak of salmonella in peanut butter products is only the latest illustration of a weakened food protection system plagued with serious gaps in leadership, legislative authorities, and surveillance coordination and capacity. TFAH's 2008 report, "Fixing Food Safety: Protecting America's Food Supply from Farm-to-Fork," identified major gaps in the nation's food safety system, including obsolete laws, misallocation of resources, and inconsistencies among major food safety agencies. The result is a fractionalized system focusing on antiquated threats, instead of a strategic approach to protecting the nation's food supply through state-of-the-art technologies, practices, and policies.
Sustained leadership from HHS is required to revitalize the food safety system, and drive the changes in government and industry food safety practices that are needed to restore public confidence. However, currently HHS is structurally ill-equipped to provide that leadership. FDA is fragmented internally and plagued by chronically weak leadership on food safety: no FDA official whose full time job is food safety has line authority over all elements of FDA's food safety program. No agency has statutory authority or a practical mandate to forge an integrated strategy that puts research, regulatory, and educational tools of government to work in a coherent way to minimize risks.
Your legislation would take significant steps to address the inherent vulnerabilities in HHS' federal regulatory system by consolidating FDA's food safety functions under a single agency, headed by a single Commissioner. The bill represents a pragmatic approach to addressing the structural weaknesses of our current system. Instead of continuing to apply piecemeal fixes to a broken system, your bill would streamline federal leadership on food safety and enable a long-term strategic vision to be implemented. The legislation also addresses the outdated approach of our existing system by emphasizing hazard analysis, risk communication, federal-state coordination, and preventive controls.
We applaud your continued leadership on the issue of food safety.
Jeffrey Levi, PhD