Protecting the safety and integrity of the food supply is one of the oldest functions of government, one that the American people expect their government to perform and perform well.
The current food safety regulatory system in the United States is the shared responsibility of local, state and federal partners. In some cases, the federal government has delegated the responsibility for ensuring food safety to states and municipalities, which are often more nimble and able to respond quickly to localized public health problems. Approximately 80% of food safety inspections in the nation, for example, are completed at state and local levels. All 50 states hold the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of milk and the sanitary operation of restaurants. In other areas, states have passed unique food safety standards that address local concerns or fill important gaps in food safety regulation left open by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies. As federal agencies become increasingly under-funded and influenced by powerful corporate interests, the states’ role in maintaining the food safety net grows ever-more important.