Under increasing criticism for its oversight of the nation’s food supply, FDA issued a plan to better protect food from accidental and intentional contamination. The plan, rolled out in early December, outlines strategies for prevention, intervention and response. The agency said it is designed to address food safety and food defense for both domestic and imported products and covers the full food lifecycle.

“Every day, FDA is working with foreign countries, state and local governments, regulated industry and consumer groups to ensure the safety of the food supply,” said FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. “We also continue to work with members of Congress to achieve new authorities requested in the Food Protection Plan.”

At least one member of Congress remains skeptical. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a frequent FDA critic, said she doubts the agency can deliver on its promises.

“While FDA will contend that they are making progress on food safety, it is progress based on an outdated system and an outdated regulatory structure,” DeLauro said. “The long-term viability of these so-called reforms remains in doubt, given that food safety will constantly be competing for attention and resources with medical product safety under the FDA.”

DeLauro is among a handful of lawmakers who would like to remove food oversight completely from FDA. DeLauro wants to see a new food agency created with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Former Texas Congressman Charles Stenholm, now a Washington lobbyist, agrees that food inspection should be taken from FDA. But instead of creating a new agency, he would like to see the Department of Agriculture take full responsibility.

No recession for crop receipts

While Wall Street and Main Street are gripped in a recession, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer says the nation’s food producers are in better economic shape. Schafer says American agriculture will complete a fifth straight year in 2008 of record crop receipts, historically sound farm asset balance and the third-highest net cash income over the last 33 years.

“The marketplace, not the government, has provided the source of income, with crop supports falling from $11 billion to $810 million in three years,” Shafer states.