July 25, 2024

GAO High Risk List Report Finds Food Plans Partially Met

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) has released its 2019 report on federal oversight of food safety, and the results are mixed. Food safety remains on the High Risk List, which is updated every two years.

GAO High Risk List Food Safety 2019

The safety of the U.S. food supply is covered by a system that includes 30 federal laws administered by 15 federal agencies. Federal oversight of food safety was added to the high risk list in 2007. The list is used to set agendas of agencies that are charged with oversight.

The report states, “For more than four decades, we have reported on the fragmented federal food safety oversight system, which has caused inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources. As of November 2018, two of the three recommendations to this high-risk area had not been implemented.”

The GAO has found that leadership commitment has been partially met. Strategic and performance-planning documents have been updated, but the USDA had not fully implemented the agency’s recommendation to update its strategic and planning documents.

Capacity has been partially met. USDA has the capacity to addressing crosscutting food safety efforts, but the Office of Management and Budget action is needed to build on documents to develop a government-wide performance plan on food safety. The Food Safety Working Group, established in 2009, is no longer meeting.

The action plan has not been met. There is no government-wide performance plan for food safety in place. Agencies have no forum to reach agreement on a set of food safety goals.

Monitoring has not been met. The report states that “federal food safety efforts are not clear and transparent to the public. Congress, program managers, other decision makers, and the public must first understand what the federal government is currently doing to ensure the safety of the food supply.”

Demonstrated progress has been partially met. USDA and FDA signed awn agreement to formalize coordination and collaboration efforts in the areas of produce safety and regulating biotechnology, but the development of a broader plan is still needed and should include the CDC, the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection.

The recommended actions include developing a national strategy for food safety that establishes leadership, identifies requirements of resources, and describes progress monitoring. USDA should implement the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) Modernization Act of 2010 requirements. And Congress should directing the Office of Management and Budget to develop a government-wide plan for food safety, and formalize the Food Safety Working Group again.


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