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It gives only a little, but Trump budget takes nothing way from food safety programs

In the fiscal year 2019 budget that sets out to cut domestic programs by almost $700 billion over 10 years, federal food safety has not only escaped the knife but made some small gains.

President Donald J. Trump’s $1.1 trillion discretionary budget proposal adds $9.4 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services, the government’s largest domestic agency and home to the Food and Drug Administration, while trimming $3.5 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA cuts, however, do not impact food safety.

“The (USDA) budget fully funds the costs necessary to support about 8,100 personnel located at more than 6,400 processing and slaughter establishments for meat, poultry and egg production in the United States,” says the document prepared by the Executive Office of Management and Budget (OBM).

“These personnel act as front-line inspectors and investigators; they provide surveillance to protect the nation’s food supply and further the mission of the Food Safety and Inspection Service.”

The proposed budget for the period Oct. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2019, is subject to review and amendment by Congress before it takes effect.

The Alliance for a Stronger FDA, which represents about 150 patient and consumer groups, biomedical research advocates, health professional groups, and individuals, praised the Trump FDA budget proposal and credited the leadership of FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb for the gains.

FDA’s budget authority would increase by $473 million in the Trump budget. Food safety gets a small slice of that.

“The funding of food safety programs needs a boost given then FDA’s multi-year responsibility for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the continuing challenges in this area, “ said Thomas Gremillion, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America who is an Alliance, board member.

“FSMA represents a fundamental change in philosophy and programming, and the agency needs more resources to implement the law effectively.”

The Trump budget proposal includes $1.4 billion for food safety across all FDA programs, which is $10 million above Congress’s Continuing Resolution for the fiscal year 2018. The total includes $1.4 billion in budget authority and continues $16 million in currently authorized user fees.

The budget document says FDA’s food safety portfolio during FY 2019 will include implementing mandatory standards for imported foods, rapidly detecting and responding to major foodborne illness outbreaks, and helping consumers make healthy choices with the most up-to-date science.

“Having issued all seven foundational rules to establish a risk-based food safety system, FDA’s implementation of the Food Safty Modernization Act continues by ensuring stakeholders across the public, and private sectors are positioned to comply with these rules,” the document says. It promises Congress that FDA will “build on these regulations and guide the modernization of our food safety system” in 2019.

FDA regulates more than $2.4 trillion in the medical products, food, and tobacco products that are consumed annually in the U.S., including about 75 percent of the food supply.

Trump budget writers also propose returning the siluriformes, aka catfish, inspection program to FDA. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) currently inspects catfish under an agreement with FDA that supposedly ended a decade-long controversy about which agency should have the responsibility.

FSIS’s $1.257 billion annual budget will roll over into the new year. It will lose the Codex Alimentarius Office in a transfer to USDA’s Trade and Foreign Affairs mission area. Codex is a 180-nation body for setting world food standards.

FSIS estimates it will collect $240 million in user fees during FY 2019 for charges covering overtime, holiday and voluntary inspection services. The budget proposes future user fees for all domestic inspections, import re-inspections and central operational costs for state, federal and international meat, poultry, and egg inspections.

The additional FSIS user fees would not take effect until 2020. Dependence on user fees in food safety budgets is on the increase by both FDA and FSIS.

FDA’s year-old animal drug and generic animal drug user fee, for example, is currently up for renewal. Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-TN, says authority to continue the user fee is “critical to keeping the food supply safe.” Those charges support the 115-person animal drug and generic animal drug review unit.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, located in Atlanta, will see a $44 million reduction in its discretionary programs. CDC’s $5.5 billion discretionary budget is only half the story. It’s total budget with additional allocations to combat opioids totals more than $11 billion.

CDC is taking a cut of $703 million in total discretionary dollars. The reduction is due in part to shifting the Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease lab safety activities to the Public Health Scientific Services and other CDC activities to the National Institutes of Health.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)) would get an FY 2019 budget of $34.8 billion in the Trump budget, which is $699 million more than the last Continuing Resolution out of Congress. NIH owns 281 facilities with more than 15 million gross square feet of space used for hospitals, laboratories and offices.

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