It’s that time of year when agency and department heads appear before Congressional committees to discuss their budget requests. For FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. that means justifying FDA’s 2023 food safety and nutrition budgets after deficiencies in those programs were called out by Politico, a national news organization.
Califf’s appointment by President Biden as FDA Commissioner was confirmed by the U.S. Senate this past February, 50-to-46. He is making his first 2023 budget appearances. He appeared last week before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug and related agencies. He is expected to also appear shortly before the House Ag/FDA appropriations subcommittee.
Here are some of the outtakes from the FDA Commissioner’s prepared remarks:
Enhancing food safety and nutrition
“FDA’s Budget requests an increase of approximately $76 million above the FY 2022 enacted level, to support our continuing efforts to enhance human and animal food safety and human nutrition. Every American deserves access to safe and nutritious food, and our foods program staff at FDA work countless hours in partnership with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners to ensure that our nation’s food supply is safe.
“To deliver on this promise, the budget requests funding to address health equity issues related to access to healthy and safe food. The budget also seeks to address the rapid changes occurring in the way foods are produced, delivered, and handled. We must have modern tools and technologies to ensure the agency’s capabilities do not lag behind these sweeping changes. As a regulatory agency, if FDA cannot keep up with industry, our oversight will struggle to be effective. Modernization of our systems will enable us to prevent significant harm to the public from unsafe food.”
New Era of Smarter Food Safety
“The budget requests approximately $59 million, an increase of $43 million above the FY 2022 Enacted level, for our New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiatives. The goal of these initiatives is to bend the curve of foodborne illness in this country by reducing the number of illnesses attributed to FDA-regulated human and animal foods and to protect consumers from other unsafe foods. This approach builds on the modernized food safety regulatory framework created by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), including investments in animal food safety oversight.
“The requested funding would support the use of new technologies and data analytics to strengthen prevention activities, including the use of artificial intelligence, improve the ability of the agency to rapidly trace food contamination back to the source and address the cause, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of FDA’s oversight activities.
Healthy and safe food for all
“As a nation, we continue to need to improve not only the healthfulness of food that we put into our bodies, but also the safety of this food, including steps to reduce the presence of toxic metals and chemicals, especially in the food consumed by our most vulnerable and underserved citizens.”
“As a cardiologist, I have seen the effect of poor nutrition on the human body, often beginning in childhood. Additionally, I am acutely concerned with the safety and availability of infant formula as a sole source of nutrition for many infants in our country today. To make progress on these issues, the budget requests an additional $33 million above the FY 2022 enacted level across several initiatives that would seek to improve health equity through nutrition; to research, detect, and reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins in food; and to complete additional nutrition work specific to infants, toddlers, and pregnant and lactating people.”
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)