Cuts in Food Safety Funding
After three days of a full floor debate, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill on June 16, 2011. The bill proposes significant cuts to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) budgets for food safety programs.
President Obama requested a 30 percent increase of the FDA budget in order to implement the changes required by the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). As we previously reported, the FSMA expands the powers of the FDA. However, the appropriations bill reduces the FDA food safety budget by $87 million from last year – nearly $205 million less than the President requested. As a result, food safety advocates are concerned that the budget reductions could seriously harm the FDAs ability to protect the U.S. food supply. Without adequate funding for FDA food safety programs, foodborne illness rates could rise.
The appropriations bill also cut the USDA budget for the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) by $88 million, which is an 8 percent reduction from the 2011 budget. Because the FSIS budget primarily funds personnel, advocates worry there will be fewer inspections for meat, poultry, and processed eggs. The administration said cuts to food inspection may require the agency to furlough frontline food inspectors. Consequently, farmers and ranchers will have to continue to feed their livestock while they wait for inspection in order to receive the USDA seal of approval for slaughter. Budget cuts would also threaten small processing plants that rely on the stream of inspections for production. As a result of fewer inspections, consumers are likely to see an increase in prices and the risk of contaminated food.
Additionally, the House amended the appropriations bill to prohibit the FDA from approving the sale of genetically engineered (GE) salmon. Critics, concerned that the sale of GE salmon will threaten the salmon fishing industry of coastal states, question whether the fish is safe for human consumption. For more information on the approval of genetically engineered salmon, please see our previous report.
Fuerst Ittleman will continue to monitor the Senate version of the bill. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.