Washington, DC - Americans rely on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make sure our food supply is the safest in the world. The FDA is responsible for helping oversee about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. Making sure that we continue to modernize our food safety system and advance our work in the important area of nutrition is a high priority of mine.
Our food safety authorities – and how we deploy these tools – are a cornerstone of our consumer protection mission. I believe that the exercise of our food safety authorities is among the most important activities we undertake on behalf of public health.
Recognizing the importance of that work, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review aspects of the FDA’s food and nutrition programs. The GAO just published its final report, where it looked at the FDA’s activities on food safety and nutrition from 2011 to present, including rules, staff, budget and guidances.
The report’s findings detail the progress the FDA has made since the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and it makes two specific recommendations to the FDA. The first is for the agency to develop performance standards with targets and time frames for the three (of eight) remaining food safety and nutrition objectives in the strategic plan for the agency’s foods and veterinary medicine program. Second, the GAO also recommends that the FDA commit to a plan that includes specific actions, priorities and timetables for implementing the strategic plan.
I’m pleased to report that the GAO’s review overall found that the FDA continues to make significant progress in implementing new and enhanced programs aimed at protecting our food supply and promoting healthier food choices. At the FDA, we’re taking additional steps toward these efforts. Over the last few months, I committed the FDA to review its recall processes and announced a new draft guidance that will assist industry and FDA staff with issuing public warnings regarding FDA-regulated products, including unsafe foods, because I recognize that the FDA can and will do more to ensure food safety. The FDA will also continue to pursue various ways to streamline our policies, make them more efficient, and increase transparency to consumers and others.
One of our key focus areas is to promote public health by enhancing the food safety system to be prevention-oriented and empowering consumers with information to handle food safely and make healthier food choices.
Some of these goals will be achieved through our continued implementation of FSMA. Others are being achieved through the efforts currently underway in our Office of Regulatory Affairs to modernize the program’s function, and make it a commodity-based and vertically-integrated structure that can better deliver public health protection.
FSMA represents the most significant change to the regulation of the food supply in decades. The FDA has been working hard to implement this modern framework for food safety; working in close coordination with states, industry and other partners.
We want to make sure we’re accurately measuring our progress, and the impact of these new regulatory programs; and that we’re reporting those results to the public.
As part of these efforts, the FDA has undertaken a concerted effort to modernize our food safety metrics in conjunction with our efforts to modernize the food safety regulatory structure. We plan to use this work to update our current performance measures and put in place outcome-based performance measures that can more accurately reflect the public health impact of the agency’s actions. We intend to say more soon on additional policy steps we’ll take as part of a broader action plan to improve our oversight of food safety and how we implement the recall process.
As for nutrition programs, we continue efforts to foster an environment to promote healthy food choices through activities like the implementation of the new Nutrition Facts label (NFL) for packaged foods. Last week, we issued several key guidances to help food manufacturers make the required changes to their nutrition labels by the upcoming compliance dates. I also announced our intent to launch a major educational campaign for consumers surrounding the new label. Soon, I’ll provide more details on a nutrition strategy to reduce preventable death and disease through better nutrition.
As we continue our important work, I’m committed to having clear implementation plans for our strategic goals and objectives while being as transparent as possible about our regulatory approach to food safety and nutrition.
I want to make sure that our investments of new and existing resources achieve their intended public health goals. That is one reason why I fully support ongoing efforts the agency is taking to improve and mature our metrics. Some of these public health measures we know will take time to see a measurable impact. To achieve these goals, the FDA will keep GAO’s recommendations at the forefront of our efforts.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.