WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has proposed a fundamental change to the mission of the Food and Drug Administration, one that would transfer most of the responsibility for regulating food safety to the Department of Agriculture and rename the FDA the “Federal Drug Administration.”
The proposal is part of a wide-reaching plan that was released Thursday by the White House and that includes other broader ideas to reform the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS would be renamed the “Department of Health and Public Welfare” and absorb some food assistance programs currently run by the USDA.
The idea of changing a key mission of the FDA comes amid a turf war between the FDA and the USDA. The two agencies have recently battled over who gets to regulate lab-grown meat, Politico reported last week. And in May, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke about the importance of his agency regulating genetically engineered animals.
“Food safety is at the core of the agency’s mission to protect and promote public health for our nation’s consumers,” Gottlieb said in a statement last week on the topic of lab-grown meat. “We take seriously our commitment to the consumers and industry who look to the FDA for important guidance when it comes to our nation’s food supply, including the pathway for bringing forward safe, emerging food innovations.”
The FDA declined to comment on the proposal.
Currently, both the FDA and the USDA regulate different parts of the food supply. For example, the FDA regulates whole eggs while the USDA regulates liquid eggs. The FDA regulates fish — except catfish, which fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA.
“This division of responsibility started in response to unsafe and unsanitary meat packing conditions in the early 1900s, but today it introduces greater risk, inefficiency, and inconsistency into the important work of ensuring food safety, which affects everyone in America,” the administration’s proposal said. Consolidating these parts of the different agencies into a single “Federal Food Safety Agency,” it added, “would provide better food safety for the country and improve efficiency for stakeholders.”
The proposal intimates that such a change would require legislative action.
“Fully integrating [the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service] and the food safety functions of FDA would ultimately require a reconciliation of underlying legislative authorities and regulatory approaches,” it read.