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If New Food Legislation Becomes Law …

June 11, 2010

ADVOCACY

The Alliance had good meetings this week with the Office of Management and Budget and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee staff.

Upcoming Meetings

  • Week of June 14: Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods
  • Week of June 28: Karen Midthun, Director of Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER)

 ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Whenever possible, we tell Congress and the Administration that FDA’s budget, at a minimum, must cover new statutory responsibilities and the increments by which its existing responsibilities evolve and grow more complex. Food safety provides an illuminating example of how these intertwine. This was evidenced in the Institute of Medicine’s new report  on food safety, which includes recommendations on how to improve our current system.

As is well-known, food safety legislation passed the House last year and a somewhat different version is expected to be considered by the Senate this year. The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the House-passed food safety bill projects an additional $1 billion will be required for food safety programs at FDA by the fifth year after enactment. This is net of revenue from the House-proposed registration and other fees. It is also about a 100% increase in what FDA received in FY 10 for its food safety activities. I have not seen the CBO analysis of the current Senate bill, but my understanding is that implementation would require about the same level of new funding as the House bill.  

Yet, the domestic portion of the federal budget is slated to shrink for at least the next three fiscal years and probably for the decade. Few domestic agencies will get even the 6% increase the Administration has proposed for FDA in FY 11. Yet, if new food safety legislation becomes law, FDA will need a 20% increase per year for at least 5 years. This would be just for foods, without considering the other critical parts of the FDA mission.

Leaving aside the general consensus that some new food safety legislation is needed…..failure to pass the legislation does not make the resource situation much better. As the IOM report makes clear, the FDA already faces significant shortfalls in the resources available to assure a safe food supply and there is far more work that needs to be done. Without legislation, that increase might only be 10% to 15% per year, instead of 20%. But that is already tens of millions of dollars more than FDA is likely to get without our advocacy and brave champions within Congress and OMB.

So it’s not an either/or: money for new responsibilities or money for existing responsibilities that have evolved and grown more complex. For food safety, the need is similar either way. In our FY 11 advocacy (and FY 12, too), we will continue to remind the Hill and the Administration that the single most important part of improving food safety is resources. Our position is the same regardless of the fate of new legislation.

Don’t let anyone tell you that they want to wait before they decide how much new money FDA needs for food safety.  The time is now.

Note: This analysis and commentary is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance.

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