The White House released a reform plan outlining a shift of government departments including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), among others.
The statement called for renaming the FDA the “Federal Drug Administration” and transferring the responsibility of food regulation responsibilities to the USDA. In addition, the plan would rename HHS the “Department of Health and Public Welfare” and establish a council on public assistance.
The White House says this shift will address the “fragmented federal oversight” of food safety and public health. They use poultry companies as an example: these groups must coordinate with multiple different government offices because chicken and eggs are regulated by different agencies.
Reorganizing these government agencies is not a new idea, but the way the Trump administration is choosing to shift the responsibilities of each department is different.
“The idea to put food regulation under the USDA is misguided,” said Jennifer Kuzma, PhD, co-director of the North Carolina State Center for Genetic Engineering and Society in Raleigh. Dr Kuzma formerly worked as a Risk Policy fellow for the USDA and has served on the FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Committee.
“The FDA has more of a mandate for public health and safety while the USDA has more of a mission to protect and promote US agriculture,” Dr Kuzma said. “To me, it would make more sense to take this single agency and either locate it within the FDA or make it independent.”
While there are teams within the USDA focused on food inspection, the FDA has more public health officials and doctors.
It’s not possible to predict how food regulation would change from this shift, but Dr Kuzma says the process itself would take a long time to go into effect.
“My guess is there would be more relaxed standards and less checks and balances. It’s hard to predict,” she said. “It would be a long process. It would be akin to restructuring of Homeland Security under DHS.”
Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century. Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Government-Reform-and-Reorg-Plan.pdf. Published June 2018.