Food Program Safety – Is There Enough Money?

Recently, there has been much controversy about whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, also known as the FDA, has enough money to implement its potentially groundbreaking Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This piece of legislation is the most comprehensive food safety law in over 70 years. The act aims to make food safer for Americans to eat by increasing the frequency of inspections, requiring food safety plans from food manufacturers, giving the FDA the authority to mandate recalls for any food products that it deems unsafe, and requiring imported food to meet the same standard as domestic food.

The act is a tall order, and Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner on Food and Drugs, insists that the FDA does not have enough resources to implement the act. Under the original terms of the FSMA, the FDA estimated that it would need $580 million to fund the FSMA. Now, the FDA has revised the estimate to between $400 million and $450 million. Even with the estimate decrease, Congress is still hesitant to give the FDA the funding it claims to need. Congress’ best defense is that the FDA still has not spent all of the $40 million increase that it gave the FDA for this year. However, the FDA retorts that it has not actually started trying to implement the bill yet; instead, it will be implemented in 2016. Congress also holds that the FDA does not have “enough of a plan” for how the money will be spent.

Food safety activists contend that without proper funding, FSMA will fail. Kelly Pike Poulsen, the Governmental Affairs Director of the American Frozen Food Institute, believes that the FSMA is “largely an unfunded mandate” and casts doubts how successful FSMA will be. Furthermore, special interest groups have appealed to Congress with letters supporting funding for the FSMA. The assembly of groups includes the Center for Foodborne Illness, Research & Prevention, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, the National Consumers League, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and STOP Foodborne Illness. It seems that the debate will rage on for now and that only time will tell what the outcome will be.