FDA Could See Mission Scope Narrow Under White House Proposal


The scope of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s mission could become much narrower if a proposed restructuring of the federal government comes to fruition.

The mission of the FDA could be narrowed to a sole focus on medication under a proposal from the administration of President Donald Trump. The FDA would lose its oversight of some parts of the food chain to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The new FDA, under the proposed change, would become the Federal Drug Administration, STAT News first reported. Currently, the FDA is responsible for the safety of all U.S. domestic and imported foods except meat, poultry, processed eggs and catfish. The FDA also conducts inspections of most establishments that manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods, the White House noted in its proposal released Thursday.

In its Thursday report supporting its push for an overhaul of the federal government (which sees the combining of multiple offices), the White House said there are numerous examples of “how illogical our fragmented and sometimes duplicative food safety system can be.” The proposal points to how the FDA has oversite of whole egg safety, while the USDA oversees liquid eggs. Again, the FDA regulates cheese pizza, but the USDA steps in if there are meat toppings, the White House report said.

To address that, the White House said all food safety functions under the current FDA purview would become part of the USDA in an agency called the Federal Food Safety Agency. The White House said there are recommendations that all federal food safety responsibilities should be under one roof with a “unified administrative structure, clear mandate, a dedicated budget, and a full responsibility for the oversight of the entire U.S. food supply.”

“The new Federal Food Safety Agency would pursue a modern, science-based food safety regulatory regime drawing on best practices of both USDA and HHS, with strong enforcement and recall mechanisms, expertise in risk assessment, and enforcement efforts across all food types based on scientifically-supported practices, the White House report said.  

If the proposal goes through, that means that approximately 5,000 current FDA employees and $1.3 billion from that agencies budget would shift to the USDA. The USDA currently has about 9,200 full-time employees and $1 billion in resources overseeing food safety that would shift to this new division, the White House report said. The Trump administration said the proposal would result in “improvements in food safety outcomes, policy and program consistency, and more efficient use of taxpayer resources.”

The FDA, in turn, would solely focus its remaining resources on drugs, devices, biologics, tobacco, dietary supplements, and cosmetics, the White House said.  

The White House proposal is just that. It would take an act of Congress to implement the proposed changes.

The FDA has not issued a response to the proposed changes. However, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has used his personal Twitter account to tout the FDA’s duties as a caretaker of food safety. On Thursday, the first day of summer, Gottlieb tweeted about packing picnic baskets with food safety in mind, as well as noting the FDA’s efforts in how it labels maple syrup and honey under new nutrition facts labels. On June 19 he tweeted his thanks to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture for meeting with him regarding efforts to ensure food safety in the United States.

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