Budget Cuts Could Gut New Food Safety Law

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 was signed into law in January after months of wrangling– but now the law and other food safety enforcement efforts face new challenges. House Republicans aim to slash the federal budget, and two of their targets for spending cuts are the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Current proposals would cut $88 million from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and $241 million overall from the FDA, although it’s unclear from what part of the FDA’s broad portfolio those cuts would be taken.

They’re not doubling the size of the FDA, and the law is of no use without money!

Dug Powell, PhD, Kansas State University

The Congressional Budget Office from Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the FDA will need some $1.4 billion in new appropriations within the next five years if it is to make good on the promise of the new food safety law. Although the CBO has scored the legislation as budget neutral overall because of the imposition of new inspection fees, Congress must still give the agency approval to spend the money to implement the law in the first place.

Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, has sounded skeptical of the food safety law in interviews. “Do you really need to spend almost $1.5 billion, which is a huge increase for a budget of $2.5 billion, which is what they have now?” asked Kingston in a January interview with the blog Eye on FDA from Eye on FDA .. “You’re not necessarily doubling the size of FDA, but certainly giving them a substantial increase, maybe more than they’ll be able to absorb in the same level of efficiency and effectiveness.”

Doug Powell, PhD, scientific director of the International Food Safety Network at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., said Kingston is off base in his calculations. “$1.4 billion over five years isn’t actually that much money; it seems like a modest increase,” he said. “They’re not doubling the size of the FDA, and the law is of no use without money! If they’re going to increase inspections and get more data, they’re going to need people to do that, and that’s what a lot of this funding was going for. I don’t know how they’re going to achieve the goals of the law if the budget gets cut.”

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