U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced at the White House Tuesday a formal agreement aimed at making the oversight of food more efficient and effective by bolstering coordination between the two agencies. The formal agreement outlines efforts to increase interagency collaboration, efficiency and effectiveness on produce safety and biotechnology activities while providing clarity to manufacturers.
FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have worked closely over the years to oversee the nation’s food supply. USDA oversees the safety of most meat, poultry, catfish and certain egg products, while FDA has authority over all other foods such as dairy, seafood, produce and packaged foods. USDA and FDA are partnering in many key areas, including the implementation of produce safety measures and biotechnology efforts.
“Today, Commissioner Gottlieb and I signed a formal agreement to promote coordination and the streamlining of capacities and obligations on shared concerns and jurisdiction,” Perdue said. “Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) 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.”
Gottlieb added, “Secretary Perdue and I share a deep commitment to further strengthening our nation’s food safety system in the most effective and transparent way. 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.”
This agreement is the agencies’ newest initiative to expand those joint efforts and take new steps to streamline regulatory responsibilities and use government resources more efficiently to protect public health. It aims to increase clarity and efficiency and potentially reduce the number of establishments subject to the dual regulatory requirements of the USDA and FDA.
For example, when a facility that makes canned soup produces both chicken noodle soup and tomato soup, it is currently subject to regulation by both agencies. The agreement tasks both government organizations with identifying ways to streamline regulation and reduce inspection inefficiencies while steadfastly upholding safety standards for dual-jurisdiction facilities. This can reduce costs to the industry and free up government resources to better target efforts to areas of risk.
The agreement also commits USDA and FDA to identifying ways the agencies can better align and enhance their efforts to develop regulatory approaches to biotechnology as each agency works to fulfill commitments outlined in the September 2016 National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products and the more recent "Task Force on Agriculture & Rural Prosperity Report." These initiatives established a vision for increasing transparency, predictability and efficiency of the regulatory processes for biotech products.
The agreement also calls for FDA and USDA to enhance their collaboration and cooperation on produce safety activities. FDA is implementing FSMA, which shifts the food safety paradigm from reactionary to one of preventing foodborne illness. Under FSMA, FDA coordinates with state and/or territorial government agencies, which will conduct most farm inspections under the FSMA Produce Safety rule.