As Congress works to prepare its appropriations bills for fiscal year 2016, nine health and consumer groups are requesting that extra funding be allocated for the national database used to track foodborne illness outbreaks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s PulseNet is a national network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories that perform standardized molecular subtyping, or fingerprinting, of foodborne disease-causing bacteria.
Last week, the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, the National Consumers League, STOP Foodborne Illness, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Trust for America’s Health wrote to Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairmen of each chamber’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations.
The letters expressed concern that CDC’s budget request was too low for improving and maintaining PulseNet. The proposal asked for a $2.1-million increase over the $48 million allocated for CDC’s food safety activities in 2015, but the health and consumer groups want to see an increase of $7 million.
“That budget increase [of $2.1 million] needs to be at least doubled if we hope to provide continuous improvement in foodborne illness surveillance,” the groups wrote.
PulseNet’s 20-year-old infrastructure needs to be upgraded and more funding needs to go to the state laboratories which do the DNA fingerprinting, they said.
“PulseNet is a critical investment in public health and in the health of America’s families,” the groups wrote. “A preliminary analysis by CDC estimated that more than 500,000 illnesses caused by Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7 were averted in 2010 alone, resulting in $96 million in savings from the direct medical costs.”