Two of the leading voices for consumers and the grocery industry publicly called on Congress to boost funding to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so the agency can implement the recently enacted food safety law.

foodshoppingbag-featured.jpgIn an Op-Ed published on The Hill’s Congress Blog, Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association–organizations that both fought hard for the food safety bill–said that additional resources will be critical to fulfill the law’s new mandate.
“The legislation marks the most sweeping reform of food safety oversight in more than 70 years,” write Rimel and Bailey. “Although it will greatly improve our ability to detect and respond to outbreaks of foodborne illness, the new law is historic because Congress has made the prevention of food contamination the central focus of the nation’s food safety strategies. The days when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will do little more than respond to outbreaks are over.”

Rimel and Bailey cite the broad, bipartisan coalition and the fact that food is an issue “that touches every American” as reason for the bill’s success in a busy and highly partisan Congress.
“What seems like an improbable collaboration should serve as an example for policymakers as they struggle to find solutions to America’s biggest challenges. When much of official Washington gave up hope for the legislation, industry and advocates continued to work with our congressional champions to get the job done.”
“However, there are still challenges,” they write. “The parties who played an instrumental role in turning food safety reform into a reality will still need to press for adequate funding for FDA’s new responsibilities. Without increased appropriations, there will not be enough resources to carry out this critical mandate to protect the health of the public.”
Key members of the GOP, including Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), the new chair of the appropriations subcommittee overseeing FDA’s budget, have criticized the new bill for adding regulations and spending at a time when the national debt is growing.

Just last week in an interview, Kingston openly questioned whether it was necessary to give FDA additional funding in light of across the board budgetary constraints: “Do you really need to spend almost $1.5 billion, which is a huge increase for a budget of $2.5 billion, which is what they have now. You’re not necessarily doubling the size of FDA, but certainly giving them a substantial increase, maybe more than they’ll be able to absorb in the same level of efficiency and effectiveness.”