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Vilsack to Testify on USDA Budget

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will testify in Congress this week on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) FY 2011 budget and with Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) convening the committee, food safety funding for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will likely be addressed.

DeLauro, who serves as chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies–which oversees the USDA budget–has been very vocal in advocating for more funding for food safety activities. 

The President’s budget requests a boost in funding to both FDA and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for food regulation, but FDA’s increase far exceeds the rate of inflation, while the FSIS budget remains essentially flat.

FDA’s food safety programs receive a 30 percent increase in funding for 2011 under the proposal. According to the agency, the budget invests approximately $1.37 billion to strengthen food safety efforts, up $318.3 million from 2010.

FSIS, on the other hand, receives a less than 2 percent increase of $18 million in the budget–$1.046 billion for 2011, compared to $1.028 billion in 2010.

DeLauro has expressed concern over the disparity in funding requests, a sentiment that was echoed by many experts after the budget was released.

“The proposed focus on transforming food safety, protecting patients, and advancing regulatory science reflects the president’s commitment to a strong food safety system, and I am very pleased with his continued support,” said DeLauro, referencing the FDA’s budget.

“While there are new food safety initiatives that deserve consideration, I am concerned that funding for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service remains essentially frozen,” said DeLauro.

“The FSIS is responsible for front-line inspections and recalls, and will be stretched beyond its capacity by the growing population of our country and the resulting increase in food consumption,” she said.

“Recent foodborne illness outbreaks, such as a recent recall involving salami that has sickened 202 people in 42 states, clearly demonstrate that the FSIS is confronting ever more serious and widespread food safety concerns.”

The hearing will be webcast live on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. EST from the committee’s website.

© Food Safety News