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Consumer Groups Call on Obama Administration to Take Action on Food Safety During First 100 Days

Food Safety consumer groups are really weighing in on what the Obama Administration should be doing. The Institute of Medicine today stated that the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety system remains ill-equipped to meet emerging challenges, and the legal authority underlying all government inspection programs should be updated to emphasize prevention of foodborne illness. The IOM further suggested there would be benefits to creating a new focused food safety entity within the Department of Health and Human Services rather than continuing at FDA. Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Science in the Public Interest endorsed that action and today are urging President-Elect Barack Obama to act quickly to advance it.

The groups said that the President, within the first 100 days in office, should:

* Issue an executive order re-establishing the White House Food Safety Council to provide him an overall view of food safety needs, and direct the council to manage strategic coordination of all food safety efforts and create a long-term budget plan for food safety agencies.

* Direct the Food Safety Council to work with Congress to establish a commission made up of government officials, industry and consumer leaders, and food safety experts to develop a proposal to bring together the various federal food safety efforts into a single agency charged with protecting the public from food-related illnesses.

* Instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to combine under a single HHS official, program and budget responsibility for all HHS food safety activities. The official should be directly accountable to the Secretary and responsible for leading food safety activities at FDA, including setting preventive safety standards for all FDA-regulated foods and assuring FDA inspection activities are carried out effectively. The secretary should also direct this official to lead the effort to establish a Food Safety Administration within HHS, consisting of the food-related activities now undertaken by the FDA operating under a modernized food safety statute.

President Obama is going to have a "full plate."