Renewed push for FDA FSMA funding in budget

Picture: FDA/Flickr. Salmonella growing in a petri dish. FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (2012)

Public health and consumer advocates have urged the full funding of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) as final decisions are made on the fiscal 2015 budget.

The Pew Charitable Trusts joined 20 public health organizations and nine consumer advocacy groups to request that Congress provide the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the funding it needs to implement and enforce the legislation.

Letters were sent to appropriators in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The FDA has published the first two final rules under FSMA. The Preventive Controls for Human Food and Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule have compliance dates for some businesses from September 2016.

FDA will finalize the produce safety, foreign supplier verification program and third-party certification of auditors for foreign suppliers rules shortly.

The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) led a coalition of more than 60 groups calling for additional FDA funding to come from the Congressional budget rather than new user fees, earlier this year.

It sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan.

Prevent not react

Public Health Groups including the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Food Laboratory Alliance (FLA), NSF International, Pew and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) said Congress enacted FSMA in 2011 which fundamentally changes the approach to food safety.

“Rather than reacting after people become sick, the agency is now able to focus on preventing food safety problems,” they said in the letter.

“The law also directs FDA to create a comprehensive food import oversight system which, for the first time, makes importers responsible for the safety of the food products they bring into the US.

“We are encouraged that the Appropriations Committees have already allocated considerable additional resources for FDA food safety and FSMA implementation.

“Unfortunately, FDA still needs significantly more funding for FY2016 in order to retrain its inspection workforce, invest in new IT infrastructure, and assist growers and other regulated parties with training and technical assistance to meet the new standards.

“As you complete your efforts to conclude a final budget agreement for FY2016, we strongly urge you to meet the FDA’s full request for $109.5m for food safety modernization.”

Consumer groups’ letter

In a separate letter, consumer groups including Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food & Water Watch and STOP Foodborne Illness said it was ‘encouraged’ by the spirit of cooperation to ensure that critical investments are made in FDA’s food safety budget during the regular appropriations process.

“This year is a crucial time for the regulators and the food industry alike. As the most important of FSMA regulations continue to be finalized, the agency will need to retrain its inspectors, expand international regulatory activities, and build upon existing training and technical assistance programs.

“As you know, the task of implementing such an overhaul requires a substantial investment to get the job done, as reflected in the $109.5m requested by the President for FY2016.

“Additionally, without full funding, FDA’s enhanced partnerships with state and local regulators may be delayed – limiting growers’ and food processors’ ability to work with trusted regulators with the deepest knowledge of their day-to-day operations.”

The groups said if successful in providing FDA with the resources it needs, they would be doing more than ‘simply funding an important modernization of the food safety system’. 

“In appropriating $109.5m for FSMA implementation, you will be strengthening consumer confidence in our growers and processors, providing regulatory certainty and creating a level global playing field for the American agriculture industry, and most importantly, making our food supply safer for American families.”

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