A single federal food safety agency, long sought by many advocates, will happen if Congress grants the Obama Administration authority to reorganize the government, according to the subscription news service The Hagstrom Report.
In its recent edition, The Hagstrom Report said Office of Management and Budget Director for Management, Jeff Zients, said that if Congress grants Obama the power to consolidate federal agencies, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) with the food safety unit at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
A consumer advocate tipped off Hagstrom that Obama Administration officials want to merge FSIS with the food regulatory function of FDA, which is part of Health and Human Service Department (HHS).
Obama administration officials are said to favor the merger because it would make food safety independent of USDA, which primarily exists to market and promote American farm products.
Presidents from Herbert Hoover through Ronald Reagan had the power to organize the executive branch of government, subject only to Congressional veto. However, Congress took those organizational powers away during the Reagan Administration. In his last State of the State address, Obama asked to have the authority restored to the Oval Office, and this week renewed that call.
Jerry Hagstrom pointed out that more than two federal agencies are involved in food safety. "FSIS, whose inspectors must be present in every meat plant in the country, has a much bigger budget than FDA, which has responsibility for other foods. Twelve agencies are involved in food safety, this will end.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has called for consolidation of all food-safety functions into a single agency, an end to fragmented oversight supported by most, but not all, outside food-safety advocates. In renewing his call for Presidential consolidation authority on Friday, Obama said his plan to merge six business and trade agencies is just the "first action" he has in mind.
It apparently includes moving the National Oceanic and Fisheries Administration (NOAA) from the Commerce Department to Interior. Obama said that would bring all salmon regulation into one agency. Late Friday, Food & Water Watch came out against that move.