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President Obama is seeking $955 million for food safety to carry out the new food safety legislation in the fiscal year, starting Oct. 1. The Food Safety Modernization Act, the first major change to the nation’s food safety laws since 1938, passed in December 2010, and calls for the Food and Drug Administration to significantly step up scrutiny of domestic and imported food and devise a new system aimed at preventing the kind of contamination that sickens one in six Americans every year.
But cuts proposed by House Republicans to the FDA would undermine the agency’s ability to carry out the law passed, food safety advocates say.
“This subcommittee has begun making some of the tough choices necessary to right the ship,” notes chairman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.).
Without additional money, let alone the current funding FDA receives, the agency will not be able to meet many requirements of the new law, food safety advocates say. The law requires increased inspections of food manufacturing plants, better coordination with state health departments and developing the capacity to more quickly respond to foodborne illnesses and minimize their impact.
“Why pass (the legislation) if you’re going to turn around and cut FDA’s funding?” asks Richard Saunders, deputy director of Virginia’s division of animal and food industry services. “FDA has never had enough funding to begin with.”
The FDA routinely contracts with states to perform inspections on its behalf. Some states have had to reduce food safety inspections and enforcement because of budget pressures and have been counting on new funding at the FDA, Saunders says.