Taylor: FSMA Implementation ‘Enormously Complicated,’ Resource Increase Key

Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Michael Taylor, says the agency remains focused on creating a prevention-based food safety system and that increasing resources will be critical for building infrastructure.

“There’s no question that to implement what really is a whole new food safety system that Congress has outlined in this law we’ve got to make some investments above our current funding,” said Taylor during a major policy address at George Washington University Thursday. “It does mean getting some meaningful increases over the next few years to get our base up above where it is today.”

As FDA moves to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law by President Obama in January, much of the discussion has turned to funding realities. The political debate in Washington, D.C. is largely focused on deficit and debt-reduction and on the size of the federal government — a tricky landscape in which to ask for more funding.

“We need to work with Congress and, of course, with the Administration and our constituents on this problem. We’ve got great support and recognition of the need for resources,” said Taylor, noting that FDA did “a lot better” than most other agencies in the FY 2011 budget agreement and could get significant increases in the pending FY 2012 budget.

“We’re going to make the best use of the resources we’ve got,” he added. “But, there’s no question if you’re going to build a whole new import oversight system you’ve got to invest in the infrastructure to do that.”

Taylor’s remarks largely echoed recent speeches, which have highlighted FDA’s shift away from simply reacting to food safety crises toward actively trying to prevent them.

“At the highest level, the prevention vision embodied in FSMA is simple: we will make food safer by setting and gaining high rates of compliance with standards that set the bar for industry efforts to prevent hazards from entering the food supply,” said Taylor, who paralleled FDA’s new approach to other critical public health initiatives: immunization for childhood diseases, fluoridation of the water supply for dental health, and food fortification for nutritional deficiencies.

Though Taylor’s speech was upbeat about the FDA’s ability to implement FSMA and overhaul the food safety system top to bottom, he again emphasized the enormity of the task ahead.

“The implementation of this vision is not going to be easy, it’s not going to be simple,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that we have an enormously complicated, enormously diverse food supply. Literally millions of commercial actors globally are participating in producing the food that comes into this country — and producing under a wide variety of conditions, a wide variety of commodities, a wide variety of hazards potentially entering the food supply. And it’s growing more complex every year.”