Durbin, Blumenthal, DeLauro Introduce Food Safety Administration Act

Legislation would establish a single food safety agency, transferring authority out of FDA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chair of the House Appropriations Committee Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) introduced the Food Safety Administration Act of 2022, legislation that would establish the Food Safety Administration, a single food safety agency responsible for ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply. This new agency would take over food safety responsibilities currently housed at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“In recent years, FDA has been plagued by one failure after another—from a failure to properly recognize the dangers of prescription opioids, to a failure to protect children from e-cigarette products, to a failure to properly ensure the safety of our nation’s food supply,” said Durbin. “The sad reality is that FDA seems unwilling or unable to use their authority to protect Americans from preventable illness and death.  For that reason, Congresswoman DeLauro and I are introducing legislation to transfer all of FDA’s food responsibilities to a new agency that, we hope, will have more success in protecting the foods in our kids’ lunch boxes and on our dining room tables.”

“Americans deserve to know the food on their plates is safe to eat,” said Blumenthal. “By protecting consumers from foodborne illnesses and acting swiftly to respond to recalls, the Food Safety Administration will improve the safety of our nation’s vital food supply. I’m proud to join Senator Durbin and Congresswoman DeLauro in this important effort to safeguard public health.”    

“Food safety is currently a second-class citizen at the Food and Drug Administration,” said DeLauro. “Right now, there are no food policy experts in charge of food safety at the FDA. That is unacceptable and contributes to a string of product contaminations and subsequent recalls that disrupt the supply chain, contribute to rising prices, and in many cases, result in consumer illness and death. Look no further than the recent infant formula crisis to understand the need to create a single food safety agency, led by a food policy expert, to ensure the safety of products that go to market. I’m proud to join my friend Senator Durbin in introducing legislation that would strengthen food safety and protect consumers.”

“EWG applauds Senator Durbin and Congresswoman DeLauro for making the safety of our food a priority,” said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group. “Every year, thousands of Americans die from foodborne illness, thousands more are hospitalized, and millions get sick. Many of these illnesses are preventable, but only if we decide to inspect food manufacturers, quickly respond to outbreaks, and stop letting the chemical companies decide whether the chemicals added to our food are safe. To do so, we must have a food safety leader who is laser-focused on our food supply.”

“The FDA's inadequate responses to outbreaks and missed deadlines for implementing critical food safety initiatives has undermined consumer confidence in the agency's food program,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports. “Consumer Reports commends Senator Durbin and Congresswoman DeLauro for this bill to bring focused leadership and more accountability to the FDA food program.”

The FDA regulates approximately 80 percent of our food supply, and consumers and industry depend on the FDA food program to perform its regulatory role effectively—and yet, despite increased authorities and funding, the agency has failed to make significant inroads in reducing rates of foodborne illness and death in the U.S.  About one in six Americans—or 48 million people—get sick from foodborne illness each year.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 128,000 Americans are hospitalized each year and 3,000 Americans die of foodborne diseases.  This costs the United States more than $15.6 billion each year.

The Food Safety Administration Act would establish the Food Safety Administration under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by incorporating the existing food programs within FDA into this separate agency: the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), and the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA). This agency would be led by a food safety expert confirmed by the Senate.

In addition to bringing focused leadership and more accountability, a unified structure and a full-time senior leader will strengthen oversight of the food supply and enhance the industry’s ability to operate effectively.

Joining Durbin, Blumenthal, and DeLauro as original cosponsors of this legislation are U.S. Representatives Nannette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).

The legislation is endorsed by Center for Food Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Defend Our Health, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, STOP Foodborne Illness, Center for Environmental Health, and Consumer Federation of America.

You can find the bill text here and a fact sheet here.