In a letter written to the House of Representatives and US Senate, the GMA recommended a budget boost of $380m in the fiscal year 2009. The federal budget request for 2008 totaled $2.1bn, a $105.8m increase from 2007. The GMA said a further increase would enable the Food and Drug Administration fully support the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and related activities in the Office of Regulatory Affairs. This is not the first time a substantial budget increase has been called for, as representatives across the industry have long been complaining the administration is under-resourced and therefore restricting the quality of its work and jeopardizing the industry it regulates. As food safety faces ever-growing scrutiny, with highly-publicized food recalls and safety scares from China, the FDA plays a vital role in upholding the reputation of the American food industry. "The FDA is responsible for regulating 80 percent of the US food supply, but receives only about one-third of the government's food safety funding," said the letter. "This needs to change if we are to maintain our position of global leadership and assure consumer confidence in the US food industry." GMA's plea The association, which represents the world's leading food, beverage and consumer products companies, fights for sound public policy and aims to protect the safety and security of food. It said a budget increase is essential to provide the (CFSAN) with the necessary scientific expertise and leadership capacity to properly assess risks and make science-based regulatory decisions. Additionally, it is needed to increase the number of FDA inspectors and laboratory personnel in its Office of Regulatory Affairs to oversee the manufacture, distribution, and importation of food products nationwide. The letter said: "We join with the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, of which GMA is a founding member, to call for a $380m increase for the budget in FY 2009, of which $150m is for food safety and related activities, and an additional $100m to be directed to the modernization of the agency's critical information technology systems." "It is clear that the time has come for Congress to provide FDA with the funding necessary to do its job," it continued. Previous calls for budget increase Last December, a report of the Subcommittee on Science and Technology attributed regulatory board's shortfalls in supporting new technologies and ensuring food safety to a failure to increase resources to meet soaring demands. It said rapid developments in areas such as nanotechnology are exceeding the capacity of current FDA science capabilities to provide sufficient safety supervision. This, it said, compromises public health and restricts the Agency's ability to support innovation in the industries and markets it regulates. These concerns were reiterated last month by the commissioner of food and drugs at the FDA, Andrew von Eschenbach, who said the body needs an increased budget and to undergo reformation to adapt to the changing safety and technological advances.
A dramatic increase in the FDA budget is needed to maintain a strong global position and encourage consumer confidence in the industry, said the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).