The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report reviewing the activities of the Food Safety Working Group (FSWG), an advisory panel established by President Barack Obama (D) to recommend improvements to the U.S. food safety system. According to GAO, the working group has spurred the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies to implement “steps designed to increase collaboration in some areas that cross regulatory jurisdictions––in particular, improving produce safety, reducing Salmonella contamination, and developing food safety performance measures.” The report concludes, however, that the FSWG did not develop “a governmentwide performance plan for food safety that provides a comprehensive picture of the federal government’s food safety efforts.”

GAO specifically faults the group for failing to include “results-oriented” goals, performance measures or “information about the resources that are needed to achieve its goals.” The March 2011 GAO report highlights “options to reduce fragmentation and overlap in food safety oversight in the form of alternative organizational structures,” while noting that “a detailed analysis of their advantages, disadvantages, and potential implementation challenges has yet to be conducted.” To this end, GAO has apparently suggested “that Congress consider commissioning the National Academy of Sciences or a blue ribbon panel to conduct a detailed analysis of alternative organizational structures for food safety.” It has also urged the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal agencies on “a governmentwide performance plan for food safety that includes results oriented goals and performance measures for food safety oversight and a discussion about strategies and resources.” See GAO Report Highlights, March 15, 2011.