The current food safety system has evolved piecemeal over almost a century in response to changes in the food supply and to changes in the biophysical and social environments in which the system operates.
The present system is not the product of planning, and it is often not equipped to anticipate changes.
The broad introduction of refrigerated railcars and trucks, freezers, and air transport created a national and now global food Thus, the developments that have provided the American consumer with a wide array of food products have also introduced risks.
Government has attempted to address such developments by adding structures and processes without always considering their effects on other aspects of the system. For example, inspectors from multiple agencies oversee parallel and nearly identical processes in the same food processing facility.
Today's products are the result of many technological developments such as pasteurization, irradiation, and genetic engineering.
Likewise, food distribution systems have changed greatly.
But the situation is not just haphazard; changes in risks have made the system outmoded.
The role and organization of government entities have remained largely unchanged, and the food safety system has fallen behind today's needs.
Recent outbreaks involving such items as Guatemalan raspberries, hamburger, ice cream, and cereal have raised concern over the adequacy of the current system to ensure the safety of the US food supply.
The GAO, public interest groups, and several members of Congress have suggested the consolidation of the existing federal food safety structure into a single food safety agency (GAO, 1997).