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WASHINGTON, November 5, 2020 — Yesterday, the Trump administration continued its war on the basic functions of government by announcing a proposal that jeopardizes regulatory safeguards established by the Department of Health and Human Services. The proposal will automatically let certain significant regulations expire after 10 years unless the agency takes proactive steps to assess and preserve them.

This new anti-regulatory proposal would force the Food and Drug Administration and other public health agencies into an endless battle to repeatedly re-analyze and re-justify sensible consumer protections, throwing many popular federal public health rules into doubt.  

This is the second such power grab on the part of HHS. In September, the department took for itself authority previously delegated to the FDA and other agencies. In that order, Secretary Azar required that he sign all new HHS regulations.

Now HHS proposes grabbing power from Congress. When Congress passes laws that direct agencies to write regulations, Congress is perfectly capable of setting its own expiration dates. But the Trump administration is now proposing a system where they can quietly undo what Congress has intended.

Consider food safety. When Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, it required the FDA to write rules keeping pathogens out of our produce, requiring inspection of imported foods, and so on. Now the Trump administration is proposing that those rules could be summarily disposed of at the end of an arbitrary period of time—in direct opposition to the intent of Congress.

This proposal is ill-conceived, ill-timed, and ill-executed, and will hamstring the agency by forcing it to throw scarce resources into an arbitrary bureaucratic exercise—resources that could be better spent on protecting public health, particularly in the midst of an accelerating pandemic.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is America’s food and health watchdog. www.cspinet.org