July 17, 2018

FDA Commissioner Issues Warning About Funding Cuts

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg is warning the food industry that cuts to the FDA’s oversight mission may threaten their businesses. She says the public reacts very negatively to foodborne illness outbreaks, and a weakened FDA may lead to more of them.

If Congress does not provide more funding, the Food Safety Modernization Act will not be able to perform as expected and decrease outbreaks in the coming years. This can cost some industries dearly; the cantaloupe industry was devastated last year after the Jensen Farms Listeria outbreak.

The Commissioner spoke at a House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee meeting last week. Ranking member Sam Farr (D-CA) said that Congress has been unwilling to fully fund the FDA and the President’s budget requests.

Hamburg said:

“We are not, as a nation, putting the resources into food safety that we should. We currently have an enormous opportunity to improve the food safety system through the Food Safety Modernization Act, but adequate funding is needed to implement the program effectively.

If we don’t get the money, we will see more foodborne outbreaks, we will not be able to work with companies to put in place the kind of systems we know make a difference.

If you look at how much every American is paying for the FDA, around food safety, it’s about three and a half dollars per year.

The FDA is often the last line of defense between the consumer and unsafe food products. … Just as the food supply of 2002 is not the food supply of today, so too the FDA of 2002 must not be the FDA of today. Food safety gives peace of mind to every family.”

Foodborne illnesses cost this country $78 billion a year, with 130,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), wants to fund the FDA through appropriations. She said, “We could increase the budget authority! Quite franky, I’m appalled with what the budget provides for food safety. I believe this is an abdication of our Congressional responsibility.”

Imported food is another concern. The FSMA gives the FDA more power to put holds on imported foods that may be contaminated with everything from fungicides to bacteria. Hamburg said, “Imports of FDA-regulated food products come from more than 300,000 foreign establishments in 200 countries.”

Funding for the FDA and other consumer safety programs has been uncertain in recent years. The Food Safety Modernization Act was the first major change to the nation’s food safety system since 1936.

The White House has proposed user fees be used to raise money needed to fund the Act. But food industry groups oppose such a measure. The industries would like Congress to fund the FDA.

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