Food Safety Funding Progresses

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Sept. 7 approved several appropriations bills for fiscal year 2012, including bills to fund programs overseen by its Agriculture Subcommittee, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

While the FSIS budget remains flat at $1.007 billion (including the full funding requested in the budget for federal, state, and international inspection activities), the FDA gets a small increase, from $2.447 billion to $2.497 billion. That might not look like much, but the FDA is the only non-security agency to receive increased funding in the bill. Many other programs absorbed significant cuts.

“This funding level takes into consideration the federal government’s responsibilities to protect public health and safety, especially in the areas of food, drugs, medical devices, and biologics,” according to a committee release. “An increase is provided the Food and Drug Administration to begin implementation of the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act,”

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D.-Wis., who chairs the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee and is leaving the Senate when his term ends in 2012, had pledged in mid-August that he would strive to improve food safety before leaving office.

Kohl pointed to a nearly 60% increase in the agency’s food safety budget over the past three years, and declared that he hoped to increase it further. “Over 3,000 people die every year from contaminated food, and the massive recalls issued in recent months serve as a good reminder that we have a long way to go,” Kohl said.

Kohl specifically noted that he would like the FDA to increase its workforce of food safety inspectors in the U.S. and overseas. He also called for the development of new regional rapid response teams, positioned across the country in order to take action quickly during an outbreak, isolating and identifying contaminated products at their source.

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