FDA requests extra funding for food safety law in 2012 budget

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has requested a record $4.3bn budget for fiscal 2012, including $324m to start implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act.

If granted, the budget would represent a 33 percent increase on 2010 spending, with the largest spending increase for a particular program requested for the department’s Transforming Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative, which includes funding provisions for the new food safety legislation that was signed into law by President Obama on January 4.

“With this increase, FDA will begin to implement the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act and also empower Americans to make healthier food choices,”​ the department said in a statement. “FDA will establish a prevention-focused food safety system and leverage the valuable work of FDA's state and local food safety partners. The result will be a stronger, more reliable food safety system to protect American consumers. FDA will also empower Americans to make more healthful food choices through menu and vending machine labeling.”

Funding for the Food Safety Modernization Act has been an area of particular controversy. The FDA has said that implementing the legislation would cost about $1.4bn over five years, but the GOP budget proposal for the remainder of fiscal 2011 includes significant spending cuts to food regulatory agencies, including the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

Last week, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), who authored the bill, sent a letter to the House Committee on the Budget and the House Committee on Appropriations in which he said he had “grave concerns about suggested efforts to withhold funding”​ for the law.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, writing on FoodSafety.gov​, said: “Now, the task falls to the FDA to carry out the direction we’ve been given. We are hard at work planning how we will put this law into effect. As we look to make the improvements called for in the legislation, we must ask ourselves many questions. What resources do we already have? What resources will we need? Where will those resources come from? Already we know that the legislation did not include sufficient fee resources to cover the costs of the new requirements. In that, we will look to Congress to work with us to ensure that FDA has what’s needed to achieve our shared food safety and food defense goals.”

The additional food safety funding as proposed by the FDA would include about $100m in increased user fees for plant inspections and registration of food production facilities. The plan must now be considered by Congress.

The budget request is for the period from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012.

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