Food Safety Overhaul Faces DefundingMay 31, 2011 - by Donny Shaw
Last session, one of the few truly bipartisan things Congress accomplished was enacting new food safety legislation, designed to increase the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory authority over the food chain in order to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks. It passed 73-25 in the Senate and 283-142 in the House. But under the House Republicans’ proposed budget, the FDA would not receive the extra money authorized by Congress last year to start implementing the new food safety law. In fact, they would see their budget cut below current operating levels.
To carry out the new law, President Obama is seeking $955 million for food safety at the FDA in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
Last week, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA pared back that amount to $750 million, which is $87 million less than the figure the agency is currently receiving for food safety. […]
Food safety advocates said that without additional money — let alone the current funding FDA receives — the agency will not be able to meet many requirements of the new law, including increased inspections of food manufacturing plants, better coordination with state health departments, and developing the capacity to more quickly respond to food-borne illnesses and minimize their impact.
The proposed budget cuts would also hinder the FDA’s ability to increase scrutiny of imported foods, according to food safety advocates. The new law requires the FDA to create a system of third-party certifiers to ensure that food coming into the United States meets the same safety standards as food produced domestically. Without additional funding, the FDA cannot create that system, said Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety programs at the Pew Health Group, part of a coalition of public health advocates and food makers. […]
“These cuts could seriously harm our ability to protect the food supply,” said Olson, who is hoping the money will be restored by the Senate, which has not proposed its spending plan.
The House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee is holding a mark-up of the bill this evening. Chairman Rep. Jack Kingston [R, GA-1] is calling the cuts the beginning of “making some of the tough choices necessary to right the ship.” Very true. As the military budget continues to rise year after year and the effective tax rates for both corporations and individual remain historically low, the tough choices are clearly leaning in the direction of cuts to social services and public safety programs.
It’s just about salmonella season. Eat with caution.