The regulation of food in the United States should be centralized under a single agency, the Food and Drug Administration, according to a proposal by Senators Abe Ribicoff (D-Conn.) and Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.)

The proposal is the result of a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee study of regulatory agencies. Ribicoff is the Chairman of the Government Affairs Committee and Percy is the ranking minority member.

They charge that the present regulation of food is scattered over too many agencies. "Divided responsiblity for regulating food production has resulted in a regulatory program which is often duplicative, sometimes contradictory, undeniably costly and unduly complex," the study says.

The senator propose that the FDA be given "more stature and independence within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and that FDA be taken out of the Public Health Service."

They further call for the FDA commissioner to be ungraded on the pay scale, along with his deputies.

Under the proposal, the FDA chief would be a presidential appointee, subjected to Senate confirmation. And the FDA's budget would be "identifiable and available to Congress."

"There is an urgent need to combine and make sense of the dual food regulation system which has existed for over 70 years," said Ribicoff yesterday.

Percy said the present system, which divides food regulation between the FDA and the Department of Agriculture, "often has led to lackadaisical or incomplete regulation by both.By making one agency solely accountable and substantially upgrading the level of federal concern. American consumers will be better assured of the quality, safety and helathfulness of the foods they buy and eat."

According to the committee report the authority over products containing meat, for example, "shifts back and forth between the FDA and the USDA."

As an example of the problems of dual regulation, the committee report points out that a soup manufacturer must process vegetable beef soup in the presence of a Department of Agriculture inspector. No inspector need be present for just vegetable soup, "although the potential hazards associated with the two kinds of soups are essentially the same."