Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Margaret Hamburg made her case for upping resources at FDA for fiscal year 2012 before a House appropriations committee on Friday, citing the agency’s “enormous” responsibility and reach.
“We are responsible for overseeing products that people need, products they care about, products that are fundamental to their health, safety and well-being,” said Hamburg in her remarks before the committee last week. “FDA must do its job well because there simply is no other agency to fall back on, no one to backstop us. Our role is unique, and FDA must fulfill this unique role completely and responsibly.”
Hamburg noted that FDA’s situation is especially precarious in the face of strict budget and a rapidly globalizing world economy: “these are especially challenging times.” President Obama’s budget asks for a significant increase in FDA’s budget, approximately 33 percent agency-wide for FY 2012–about $1 billion in additional funding, a total of $4.3 billion.
Though many agencies have their budgets essentially frozen for a few years to help tackle the deficit, FDA is being targeted by the Obama administration as an area in dire need of investment.
“We live in a time when powerful forces shape our world,” said Hamburg. “We live in a globalized world, and the reality of globalization affects everything we do at FDA. We live in a time where new threats – whether accidental or intentional – constantly emerge and pose new risks to the products FDA regulates and to Americans who rely on them.”
Hamburg said FDA was committed to greater accountability and efficiency in program implementation and stressed the importance of innovation.
She cited FDA’s food safety program as a cost-effective program for the American people that is “making significant progress to reduce foodborne illness that costs the U.S. health care system $88 billion annually.”
Hamburg cited a number of FDA’s accomplishments, including a couple relating to food: allowing the first test to identify norovirus, a common foodborne illness, applied genome sequencing to trace foodborne illness outbreaks, a collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop seafood testing for Gulf seafood in the wake of the oil spill, a public-private partnership for improving produce food safety, and the Reportable Food Registry (RFR).
Hamburg touched on the new food safety bill and what it means for FDA as far utilizing resources.
[The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act] closes significant and longstanding gaps in FDA’s food safety authority,” said Hamburg. “For example, FFSMA gives FDA important new tools to ensure that imported foods are as safe as domestic foods. The new law also directs FDA to build an integrated national food safety system in partnership with state, local and tribal authorities.”
“FDA will use these resources to establish a prevention-focused food safety system that leverages the valuable work of FDA’s state and local food safety partners,” added Hamburg. “The result will be a stronger, more reliable food safety system to protect American consumers.”