Leading food industry groups are urging the Obama administration to adequately fund federal food safety oversight, instead of seeking new taxes or regulatory fees.
“We respectfully ask that you make securing adequate congressional funding for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety activities one of your highest priorities rather than proposing any new food taxes or regulatory fees on consumers and food makers,” the groups wrote in a letter Monday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House Office and Management Acting DIrector Jeffrey Zients.
The letter was signed by a wide variety of industry groups, including the American Frozen Food Institute, the American Meat Institute, the Juice Products Association, the United Fresh Produce Association and the Pet Food Institute.
With widening deficits, Congress and the Obama administration have sought to rein in federal spending at several agencies. The FDA was a rare exception in the last round of congressional appropriations, receiving a $50 million boost for fiscal year (FY) 2012 to help the agency implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the law will cost approximately $1.4 billion over five years to put into action.
The Obama administration’s FY 2013 budget request is expected to be released February 13, a week behind schedule.
“FDA’s budget has rightfully been increased to $2.5 billion for FY 2012,” said the letter. “We particularly appreciate the funding increase received by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, whose important work has greatly benefited from a $350 million budget increase over the past four years.”
The Obama adminstration’s budget request for FY 2012 proposed raising revenue to fund (FSMA) implementation, by imposing new fees. As the groups note, “Such fees were rejected during congressional consideration of FSMA and were again rejected last year by congressional appropriators.”
The industry argues that fees would be passed onto consumers, which is a hard sell during an economic recovery.
“As consumers continue to cope with a period of prolonged economic turbulence and food makers struggle with record high commodity prices, the creation of new food taxes or regulatory fees would mean higher costs for food makers and lead to higher food prices for consumers. As such, we believe imposing new fees on food makers is the wrong option for funding food safety programs.”