Push for larger FDA food safety budget

Congressional pressure is growing on the White House to spend more money on the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety efforts. A bi-partisan group of 23 members of the Senate sent a letter to White House Budget Director Jim Nussle asking for a “significant increase” in the fiscal 2009 budget for the FDA’s food safety activities.

The FDA oversees the safety of 80% of the US food supply, with the remainder under the jurisdiction of the USDA and various state agencies. That amounts to nearly a half trillion dollars in processed foods, vegetables and fruits.

“Additional funding would allow the FDA to hire more inspectors, pursue additional compliance and enforcement actions, and improve its data management,” the lawmakers said in their letter.

The letter said increased FDA vigilance is becoming more important as the amount of food imported from China and other countries continues to grow. Raw farm imports from China grew from $1.2 billion to $2.1 billion in a recent three-year period.

In Congressional testimony in early December, Cal Dooley, CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said Congress should make the prevention of contamination the focus of the nation’s food safety system. In particular, Dooley said Congress should require every food importer of record to implement a foreign supplier quality assurance program based upon FDA guidance and subject to FDA review. 

“Rising consumption of fruits and vegetables, including ready-to-eat foods, reflects growing consumer demand for healthier food choices but also creates new food safety challenges that should be addressed through strong and enforceable produce safety standards,” Dooley told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Study urged on food from cloned animal

Both dairy producers and processors are supporting a proposal by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to study the effects of allowing milk and other food from cloned animals to enter the US food supply. Mikulski attached the study provision as an amendment to the Fall Bill. At the same time, the two lobby groups said they would oppose another Mikulski proposal-one requiring mandatory labeling identifying all food from cloned animals. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) said more study is needed before food from clones enters the food supply. In its comments to the FDA on the issue, IDFA, which represents dairy processors, expressed the concern that allowing milk from cloned animals would significantly reduce US milk consumption.