As a Salmonella Agona outbreak linked to Mexican papayas unfolds, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member on the Labor, Education, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, is calling on Congress to fund the implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

So far, the outbreak is linked to 99 illnesses, including 10 hospitalizations, in 23 states. A Texas-based marketer has recalled whole papayas sold under four brand names, and products containing papaya have been recalled as well. 
“This recall is a prime example of why we must fully fund the Food Safety Modernization Act,” said Rep. DeLauo in a statement Wednesday. “This legislation, signed into law last year, has the capacity to strengthen and modernize our food safety system — but will only be successful if it has the tools and authority it needs.”
“The Food Safety Modernization Act gives the FDA new tools to better ensure that the food we consume, including that imported, is safe,” wrote DeLauro, citing the deep cuts to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the recent agriculture appropriations bill that cleared the House.

Under the plan, FDA would take an 11.5 percent cut, $280 million, in fiscal year 2012, $87 million of which would have a direct impact on food regulatory capacity.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the food safety bill will cost $1.4 billion over 5 years to roll out.

“Essentially, we are asking the FDA to do more with less, and it will not work,” added DeLauro. “We should be investing in the FDA, not limiting its ability to effectively protect Americans.”

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), Chairman of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, defends the cuts, citing America’s debt crisis.

During the appropriations debate on the floor last month, Kingston praised the private sector for maintaining such a high level of food safety without the “nanny state.”

“That’s the private sector working,” said Kingston. “The way you keep your customers coming back to buy more is by keeping them safe.”