WASHINGTON — President Obama wants to create a new government agency dedicated to keeping the nation’s food safe.

The proposal in the president’s budget released Monday comes after outbreaks of illnesses linked to chicken, eggs, peanuts and cantaloupe in recent years. More than a dozen federal agencies oversee food safety, and consumer advocates have long called for bringing all those functions together in a single home.

Currently, the Department of Agriculture oversees the safety and inspections of meat and processed eggs and the Food and Drug Administration oversees safety of most other foods. The split oversight is often complicated – the FDA would be responsible for the safety of frozen pizza, for example, but USDA takes over part of the duties if the pizza has meat on it.

USDA inspects meat daily as it is processed, while the FDA generally conducts inspections every few years. The two agencies share inspection duties at the border. .

The budget proposes consolidating the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and all of FDA’s food safety oversight into one new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The new agency also would coordinate with state and local health departments, a job that is now mostly handled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consolidation “is an essential step to reforming the federal food safety system overall,” the White House says.

The administration said the agency would be based at HHS, not USDA, because food safety and foodborne outbreaks are public health concerns consistent with the larger mission of the department.

The changes are likely to meet opposition on Capitol Hill. Many in the food industry have long opposed a shift, fearing increased oversight, and those companies have powerful allies in the new Republican Congress.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, signaled opposition.

“In this tough economy, the last thing producers and consumers need is more red tape,” Roberts said.

But some consumer groups said the proposal didn’t go far enough. And the CDC estimates that there are 48 million foodborne illnesses a year from contaminated foods.

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