Bill Marler, the food safety lawyer in Seattle, is asking for responses to the question, "If you had a magic wand, how would you fix the food safety system?"
I've been mulling over his question in light of the recent enactment of the food safety bill, as yet unfunded. Magic wand in hand, here's what I'd do:
Create a single food safety agency: the new law is designed to fix the FDA. It does nothing to fix the USDA's food safety functions. These remain divided between the two agencies, with USDA responsible for the safety of meat and poultry, and FDA responsible for everything else. This division pretends that animal wastes have nothing to do with the safety of fruits and vegetables which, alas, they do.
Require safety control systems for all foods. Everyone who produces food should do it safely using proven methods for identifying where hazards can occur, taking steps to prevent those hazards, monitoring to make sure the steps were taken, and—when appropriate— testing to make sure the system is working.
Apply safety controls from farm to table. The new law does this for FDA-regulated foods. But USDA safety regulations begin at the slaughterhouse after animals have already been contaminated in feedlots or in transport. Everyone involved in food production, even farmers large and small, should be actively engaged in food safety efforts.