On Friday September 14, 2012, the White House Office of Budget and Management (OMB) released a report on the possible effects of sequestration on food safety, Medicare, FBI, FAA, and education. Sequestration is the across-the-board cuts that will kick in if Congress does not pass a deficit reduction bill by early January 2013. The cuts are part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that was signed into law after the debt ceiling crisis in August 2011.
The White House states that “the sequestration itself was never intended to be implemented.” It was supposed to be a way to prod Congress into action. While there is still time for Congress to put a plan in place, House Republicans announced last week that the House will be in recess until November 13, 2012.
The report states that, “no amount of planing can mitigate the significant impact of the sequestration. Sequestration is a blunt and indiscriminate instrument. It is not the responsible way for our Nation to achieve deficit reduction. The President has already presented two proposals for balanced and comprehensive deficit reduction. It is time for Congress to act.” Almost every non-defense agency will have an 8% cut for fiscal year 2013 if sequestration takes place. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service budget would be cut by $86 million. The FDA would be cut by $318 million.
The Alliance for a Stronger FDA recently made a statement about the dangers of sequestration. Stephen Grossman, deputy executive director of the Alliance said, “subtracting money from every program just weakens vital programs and prolongs the life of less important programs. Our view has been that FDA should/will come out near the top if federal resources are allocated on the basis of merit and importance.”
There are currently three major outbreaks of foodborne illness that are occurring in the United States. An outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup is linked to imported mangoes from Mexico and has sickened at least 121 people in 15 states. An outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Newport is linked to Chamberlain cantaloupes and has sickened 270 people in 26 states and killed 3. And an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to imported Frescolina ricotta salata cheese has sickened 14 people and killed 3.