The Food and Drug Administration is trying to add $1.4 billion for food safety to the fiscal 2012 budget, but the House voted to trim the budget by 10%.

The Food and Drug Administration, Washington, D.C. is asking for $1.4 billion for a new food-safety law budget that Republicans have already cut for next year.

A vote last month in the Republican-controlled House to reduce the FDA’s fiscal 2012 food-safety budget by 10% to $752 million, the agency estimates, will slow the law’s progress if enacted, say supporters of the January legislation. Representative Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican who oversees the budgets of the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., says the increases are unnecessary because the food supply is “99.9% safe."

But with the food poisoning epidemic in Europe, that view might be short-sighted, says Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who represents food poisoning victims. The outbreak among those who ate German-grown sprouts was deadlier than earlier E. coli epidemics because it combined traits of two strains, raising risks for potentially fatal kidney complications.

Marler contends that we have the tools in the United States to prevent such an occurrence here, “it’s just a matter of, are we willing to pay for it.”

The FDA is working on rules to cut contamination risks for fresh produce, required under the Food Safety Modernization Act, which overhauled the food-safety system for the first time since 1938. The statute would cost $1.4 billion through 2015, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. The House cut would need to be passed by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama to become law.

A government surveillance network that tracks foodborne illnesses in 10 states identified 442 cases of O157 E. coli last year, down from 459 in 2009. The system, known as FoodNet, found 451 cases of other E. coli strains last year, a 71% increase from 2009.