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Obama’s 2016 Budget: $1.6 Billion for Food Safety, Single Food-Safety Agency

President Obama’s $3.99-trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, released Monday, would allot $1.6 billion to food-safety work.

With all of the major Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules set to be finalized by the end of FY 2016, a lot of the focus is on Food and Drug Administration’s requests.

Overall, the agency is requesting $2.7 billion in budget authority, with $1.3 billion of it to go to food-safety activities. FSMA would get a $109.5-million increase over the previous year.

FDA is also asking to increase user fees by $191.8 million.

Looking just at the discretionary funding, Sandra Eskin, director of food safety for the Pew Charitable Trusts, is pleased with the number.

“It demonstrates the president’s commitment to getting this important food-safety law up and running,” she told Food Safety News.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also requesting an increase in funding for the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID). An additional $2.1 million over 2015’s allocation of nearly $48 million would go toward food safety. More than $264 million would be dedicated to the new Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB) National Strategy Initiative.

In contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is requesting a little less in budget authority for its food-safety mission area than its enacted 2015 levels — $1.012 billion compared to $1.016 billion. The bulk of funding in this area goes to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is asking for $895 million for FY 2016.

USDA says that the cut of more than $4 million from 2015 is the result of “savings from the implementation of the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) and program efficiencies.”

The agency also said that some of the $2.9 billion for agricultural research and extension activities would support new and expanded research food-safety training and technical assistance to owners of small farms and food processors to help them implement food-safety guidelines, particularly those resulting from the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Single Food-Safety Agency

The president’s budget also proposes a consolidation of FSIS and FDA’s food-safety components into a new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. This “would provide focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards, and clear lines of responsibility and accountability that will enhance both prevention of and responses to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses,” along with allowing resources to be better allocated, according to the proposed budget.

In its statement supporting the increased FSMA appropriations, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) also noted its opposition to the administration’s plan for combining FDA and FSIS.

HHS is so big that a new food-safety agency under its banner would be lost among other priorities, said Chris Waldrop, director of CFA’s Food Policy Institute. Instead, the organization supports a single food-safety agency that is independent of federal departments such as HHS and USDA. Just such a creation was proposed last week Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s (D-CT) Safe Food Act of 2015.

But, according to the budget proposal, “food safety and the prevention, mitigation, and response to foodborne illness outbreaks are public health concerns, consistent with the larger mission of HHS.”

“American families deserve the security of knowing the food on their table is safe,” DeLauro said in her statement about the budget proposal. “Our current food safety system is hopelessly fragmented and outdated, consequently putting lives at unnecessary risk. Putting our food safety functions under HHS is a step that I first suggested in 2007; I am glad the Administration has proposed taking this action in their FY16 budget.”

© Food Safety News
  • anitagjen

    It’s about time, isn’t it? In fact, it’s way past due.

  • doc raymond

    “Hopelessly fragmented”? so who fragmented the system? congress of course. There was a single food safety agency until Congress split it into two in 1940. Then in 1970 they fragmented egg inspection, then in 2008 they moved catfish to USDA while leaving bison at the FDA. Do we really think they can get it right this time around? Of course not.

  • Sid Clemans

    Eventually a single agency should help. You have to hope they will not be following the Homeland Security Model, the most recent, sensible sounding, major effort to organize like functions in a single agency. Once all the organizational squabbles are over, lets hope people can settle down and develop a risk-based food safety system that puts the resources where they will yield the best outcomes. Lets hope it is in our lifetime.