The Food and Drug Administration should consider delegating all facility inspections to state officials as one element of a risk-based approach to cut the number of foodborne disease outbreaks, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.
The 491-page report, released June 8, said the agency needs to focus its personnel and resources on the links of the food production, distribution and handling chain most vulnerable to contamination.
The IOM said the agency should increase coordination with state and other federal agencies that share accountability for food safety. The IOM also said Congress should explicitly provide the FDA the authority it needs to fulfill its food safety mission, including the use preventive food safety controls, risk-based inspections, mandatory recall, reporting of adulteration and banning of food imports public health is at risk.
The report said FDA lacks the resources to sufficiently monitor millions of tons of food imports, more than 150,000 food facilities, more than a million food establishments and more than two million farms.
FDA also lacks the analytical expertise and systems to use the data it has effectively, and the IOM report suggests the government should create a centralized food safety data center outside the control of any one agency.
The creation of such a center could serve as a beginning step toward a single food safety agency, the report noted.
The report said FDA should consider delegating food facility inspections to the states, while at the same time put in place national standards for the intensity and frequency of facility reviews.
The majority of inspections should be handled by state inspectors with FDA supervision, the IOM said. Currently, the reports said about 60% of inspections are conducted by state officials under contract with FDA.