April 26, 2018

FDA Seeks $4.5 Billion for Food Supply and Medical Product Safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking a budget of $4.5 billion for Fiscal year 2013 to “protect and promote the public health.” That amount, a 17% increase over FY 2012, would be used to support medical product development, protect patients, and ensure the safety of the food supply.

Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner of Food and Drugs, said, “These are austere budget times, and the FDA budget request reflects this reality. Our budget increases are targeted to strategic areas that will help speed the availability of new medical products, address the challenges of increased globalization, and allow the FDA to fulfill its public health duties more efficiently.”

The parts of the budget that affect food safety include:

  • Transforming Food Safety Initiative: $253 million will “bolster the FDA’s efforts to build a strong, reliable food safety system as envisioned in the Food Safety Modernization Act.” The FDA is trying to foster a prevention-focused, or proactive system, rather than the reactive system that is now in place.
  • Food and Drug Inspections in China: More than $10 million in new resources will help increase the agency’s presence in China, since many foods and drugs are produced in that country and exported to the United States.

Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit agency, criticized the plan for its cuts to programs. “The budget proposed today by President Obama for fiscal year 2013 contains cuts to critical food safety programs, particularly the agency responsible for meat and poultry inspection, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration.”

Food and Water Watch was particularly critical of two points in the President’s plan:

  • The budget assumes that a new rule to privatize some poultry inspections will be implemented. But the rule is still in the proposal stage and the facts are still out about whether the change will save money and keep consumer protections in place.
  • The budget also calls for “user fees”, especially “inspection fees”. The agency does not like the fact that private corporations would essentially be funding government inspection.
  • The budget cuts appropriations for the FDA and instead relies on “registration fees”, which will make it more difficult for that agency to meet the new standards in the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The Alliance for a Stronger FDA is also concerned about reliance on industry fees. The president of the Alliance, Margaret Anderson, said, “The FDA’s essential role in protecting public health continues to grow to meet the demands of our time. With no other agency as fallback, we believe that FDA’s funding should be increased to reflect the agency’s vast responsibilities and increased workload. Inadequate funding for the FDA has real and immediate consequences as it jeopardizes the public health.”

The American Frozen Food Institute also issued a letter in response to the budget proposal, asking the President to fully fund food safety agencies without implementing fees.

Funding for the FDA and the Food Safety Modernization Act has taken a rocky path. In this election year it will be interesting to see if Congress chooses to approve this $4.5 billion funding request, especially in light of last year’s deadly outbreaks. And here’s a bit of trivia: the annual cost of foodborne illness in the United states is $152 billion.

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