The federal government’s fragmented food safety program remains on the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List. Federal oversight of food safety was first added to GAO’s High Risk List in 2007.
The list is updated every two years, and GAO has made recommendations to reduce fragmentation in federal food safety oversight.
But, the complex system of 30 federal laws administered by 15 federal agencies remains largely unchanged. That leaves federal food safety on the GAO High Risk List along with such areas of concern as the security clearance system, cybersecurity, and VA health services.
Department of Defense inventory management and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather forecasting enjoyed progress in getting off GAO’s list.
Congress uses the High Risk List to help set oversight agendas, with the GAO’s findings used in both agency-specific and government-wide reforms. The first list was published in 1990 and included 14 areas. Since then, 48 additions have been made to the list, and 26 removals. Two areas were consolidated into one. The GAO reported that progress on the list has resulted in $350 billion in financial benefits to the federal government.
In its latest publication, the GAO calls upon the federal food safety system to address three specific areas:
The GAO, which in the past has called for consolidation of all federal food agencies into one, also suggests Congress at least look “alternative” organizational structures.
Among other shortcomings of the current federal food safety system, the GAO says the agencies are operating without a government-wide performance plan. Nor is there monitoring of the effectiveness of food safety programs.
The GAO High Risk List does recognize the January 2018 signed agreement between USDA and FDA, which formalizes ongoing coordination and collaboration in produce safety, biotechnology, and other areas as “positive.”
The GAO is scheduled to publish its next High Risk List in 2021.
Source: Food Safety News