Industry says FDA ‘bare-bones’ budget proposal jeopardizes food safety

February 16, 2008

The FDA has requested a budget increase of $42.4m for food safety initiatives in the 2009 fiscal year, but food industry and consumer groups say this will still leave administration under resourced in this area.

The FDA, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for safeguarding the country’s food supply. However, there have been growing concerns that under-funding at the department is putting American consumers at risk.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said that additional funding for food safety was not enough and “only covers cost of inflation.”

“Congress must make a commensurate investment in FDA’s food-related programs so that the FDA has the resources it needs to fulfil its critical food safety mission,” it said.

A spokesperson for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said that once other costs have been taken out, the requested increase amounts to only $32 million for food safety initiatives.

Food Safety Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Caroline Smith DeWaal, said this translates into a bare-bones increase of only $2 million when adjusted for the agency’s typical inflationary cost.

“The Bush Administration’s ‘food protection’ initiative is little more than shadow boxing against unsafe imports,” she said.

The requested budget is being seen as particularly disappointing given the political attention food safety has attracted.

At a press conference in the US Capitol in December 2007 Senator Dick Durbin (Illinois), Senator Edward M Kennedy (Massachusetts) and representatives from the food industry and customer interest groups, called on the White House to increase FDA food safety resources.

Senator Durbin was quoted by food groups as saying: “For years, Congress has pointed out that the FDA is understaffed and under funded….I am calling on the Administration to commit to doubling FDA funding over the next five years. We simply cannot leave American families vulnerable when it comes to food safety.”

According to the GMA, a week before that conference a subcommittee of the FDA’s Science Board had released a report detailing how under funding was jeopardizing the agency’s ability to protect the food supply.

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