There seems to be no disagreement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will require more funding to fully implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, but the Obama administration plan to collect $220 million in fees for food safety oversight has industry groups warning that those fees would be passed on to consumers via increased food prices.

Almost all of the administration’s budget increase for food safety in Fiscal Year 2013 would be registration fees, even though Congress has struck down fees as a major source of food safety funding at FDA before. Without fees, FDA’s resources for food safety would increase by approximately $33 million next year. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that FDA would need $1.5 billion over five years to implement FSMA.

“We urge you to continue to adequately fund the food safety activities of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rather than support the imposition of any new food regulatory taxes on consumers and food makers,” said food industry groups in a letter to key appropriations lawmakers in the House last week.

The letter, signed by more than 30 trade groups, was sent to appropriations committee chair Hal Rogers (R-KY), ranking member Norm Dicks (D-WA), and agriculture appropriations subcommittee Jack Kingston (R-GA) and ranking member Sam Farr (D-CA). The American Meat Institute, the Snack Food Association, the Juice Products Association, and the American Frozen Food Institute were among the groups that cosigned the letter.

The industry groups point out that an early version of FSMA did contain registration fees to help pay for food safety at FDA but that proposal was rejected by Congress. The bill that was signed into law in January 2011 allows for limited reinspection fees, but not registration fees.   

Part of the trepidation from industry comes from the fact that it is not clear what the fee program would look like, or which type of facility would be required to pay.

“We know FDA’s proposal will drive up costs for food makers and consumers,” said Corey Henry, a spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute. “What we can’t quantify is the severity of those cost increases, because the specifics of FDA’s proposal are not fully known. It’s unclear how much in additional costs an individual food maker would be forced to bear.”

“Funding FSMA implementation requires more resources, and we believe Congress must make food safety a priority and provide appropriate additional resources,” Henry added.

When the budget plan was announced earlier this month, Patrick McGarey, Assistant Commissioner for Budget at FDA, said that many details still need to be worked out.

“We’re open to working with industry to shape a proposal that meets their objectives and our objectives and meets the public health needs of food safety,” added McGarey. “We’ve not defined the registration fee yet as to which facility and at what amount the fee would be assessed.”