Upcoming standards for the food industry will represent a watershed in US food safety, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Margaret Hamburg said at a food policy conference this week – but she renewed her call for more funding to ensure the agency can do its job.
At the 34th annual National Food Policy Conference in Washington, Hamburg told an audience of consumer advocates, food industry and government representatives that all parties need to collaborate over the “promise that our food supply will be safe for every American”.
Drawing on the theme of this ‘promise’ throughout her speech, Hamburg said: “In food safety, we know that many of the risks of tomorrow may not even be on our horizon today. We need a world-class science base to see over that horizon. We need to continue to work on preventive controls, importer accountability, compliance, and inspection. We also need to ensure the greatest transparency when it comes to implementing FSMA [Food Safety Modernization Act]—if we want to ensure our historic promise.”
She outlined several moves already taken under the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January, and said that the agency expects to release its proposed rules on preventive control standards for the food processing sector in the near future, “the very heart, many would say, of FSMA,” she said.
She said: “We understand that these are times of fiscal constraints, and we’re committed to doing our job by allocating our resources based on risks and priorities. But we certainly can’t do everything we need to do—not without a significant infusion of financial resources."
FDA funding for the year ahead is still uncertain. US spending bills have been tightened by concerns over the level of national debt, and a congressional supercommittee created in August must come up with recommendations for how to save $1.5trn over ten years by November 23.
In May, House Republicans voted to slash FDA funding by $285m in 2012, to a level 11.5 percent lower than 2011, while in September, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an extra $50m of funding for the FDA in 2012.