Photo: Wally Gobetz (flickr)
Food Safety Spared The Chopping Block
Supporters and critics are digesting the $4 billion the government awarded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of President Obama’s 2012 proposed budget. At a time when many programs are experiencing significant funding cuts, the over $1 billion increase to the FDA’s funding reflects the administration’s seriousness in addressing the food safety system.
The FDA pledges to use the majority of the money for its Transforming Food Safety Initiative, saying that funding is needed to increase prevention of food-borne illness through research, food inspections, and scientific analysis of products.
Supporters applaud the president’s decision to spare the FDA from extreme budget cuts, but some, such as Food and Water Watch lobbyist Tony Corbo, say that the money awarded to the FDA is only half of what is needed to fully implement the FDA’s responsibilities to food safety.
USDA Must ‘Tighten Its Belt’
Because of the country’s giant deficit, not all programs were able to receive increased funding.
For instance, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will have to absorb budget cuts in areas like meat inspection and international food safety inspection. The lessened funds set aside for meat inspection may be particularly worrying, especially as the demands on the USDA will increase with the new Food Safety Modernization Act.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explains the budget cuts as an unfortunate necessity:
In this budget, we are cutting programs not because we want to, but because we have to. American families have been forced to tighten their belts and government must do the same. The budget fulfills the President’s pledge to completely eliminate earmarks. We are promoting good government and streamlining agency operations in a host of programs.
Even with these concerns, House Republicans are pushing to cut more from the federal budget, including from the FDA.