If the Trump Administration gets its way, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may soon lose 5,000 staff members and $1.3 billion in funding as part of restructuring efforts aimed at addressing government inefficiencies. In addition, President Trump seeks to strip the FDA of its food safety authority and would require the agency to change its name to the “Federal Drug Administration.”
According to Endpoints News, is part of the administration’s reform plan titled, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century.” Under the recommendations, the FDA would retain its ability to regulate drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, and dietary supplements, among other controlled products.
While the reform would remove about 30 percent of the FDA’s 17,000-strong workforce, these individuals would not lose their jobs. Instead, they’d be transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to form a new group of around 14,000 employees, called the “Federal Food Safety Agency.” And while $1.3 billion in funding would be taken away from the FDA in order to support the merger, only $1 billion would be contributed by the USDA itself.
Currently, the FDA shares its food safety oversight responsibilities with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), however the Trump Administration has been highly critical of this “inefficient” and “illogical” arrangement.
“For more than forty years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that the fragmented Federal oversight of food safety ‘has caused inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources,’ and food safety has been on GAO’s list of high-risk areas since 2007,” said the report. “FSIS and FDA are the two primary agencies with major responsibilities for regulating food and the substances that may become part of food. FSIS is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, processed egg products, and catfish, while FDA is responsible for all other foods, including seafood and shelled eggs.”
They believe that consolidating food safety responsibilities into a single government entity would be the best way to address the perceived inefficiencies.
“The reform would reduce duplication of inspection at some food processing facilities, improve outreach to consumers and industry, and achieve savings over time while ensuring robust and coordinated food safety oversight,” said the report. “While the FDA and FSIS currently have very different regulatory regimes, consolidating FSIS and the food safety functions of FDA would allow for a better allocation of resources based on risk, better communication during illness outbreaks, and improved policy and program planning through development of a single strategic plan.”
Despite assertations made by the White House that consolidating the powers of the FDA and the USDA when it comes to food safety is “the right thing to do,” they’ll need to convince Congress before any significant steps are taken. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb may also require some convincing as he has shown his commitment to food safety by announcing changes to the recall process which could improve the way products are pulled from the market.