The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it must update its scientific tools to ensure the safety of the products it regulates in a new agency white paper.
The paper, “Advancing Regulatory Science for Public Health” was released to coincide with a speech from FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg at the National Press Club in Washington on Wednesday. She told reporters that investment in improved scientific standards could help the agency detect safety problems sooner. The FDA oversees the safety of about 80 percent of the US food supply.
The report outlines the importance of the agency’s efforts to keep its food safety program in step with emerging risks, such as the rapid development of testing methods to ensure the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico after the oil spill there, or monitoring anti-microbial resistant foodborne pathogens.
“As in other areas, the effectiveness of FDA’s food safety program depends on the strength and capacity of the science underlying it,” the document said.
In a section of the report, entitled Protecting the Food Supply, the FDA said that it has already “increased its investment and sharpened its focus on the science needed to detect food safety breakdowns and to understand how they occur.”
The FDA’s call for extra investment is nothing new, with cash flow typically lagging behind the levels that the agency says it needs. For fiscal year 2011, the Obama Administration had requested a 23 percent increase in the FDA’s budget, but Congress has failed to pass appropriations for fiscal 2011, and recently passed a resolution to keep funding at 2010 levels for most government agencies.
However, a spate of recent large-scale recalls, including that of more than half a billion eggs, has highlighted the FDA’s limitations.
The FDA’s full report is available online here .