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Mixed news for food agencies in Trump’s budget

By Joe Whitworth+

20-Mar-2017
Last updated on 20-Mar-2017 at 12:37 GMT2017-03-20T12:37:17Z

©iStock/ginosphotos
©iStock/ginosphotos

There was mixed news for food safety agencies in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint.

The budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2018 calls for a 31% cut and for 3,200 jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be eliminated.

A more detailed request will be released later this year, after which Congress will make a decision.

The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees assess budget requests and draft funding legislation for USDA and FDA.

USDA cuts but FSIS survives

The President’s budget allocates full funding for the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS).

However, the USDA budget might be cut by 21% and the Department of Health and Human Services (home to the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) by 17.9%.

Plans propose a shift in the US FDA’s funding from appropriations to industry user fees, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The group said past plans to offset appropriations with increased user fees have led to ‘chronic underfunding’ at FDA and delayed implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

“We are hopeful that as the Administration and Congress work through the appropriations process and create a more detailed spending plan, they will reach a consensus on the importance of reliable funding for FDA and continued support for strong public funding of all agencies’ food safety responsibilities.”

The Safe Food Coalition also urged Congress to eliminate the part of the proposed American Healthcare Act to cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget by 12%.

Proposed cuts would force state public health authorities to abandon investments in electronic lab reporting and other tools that protect consumers by reducing the time it takes to identify multistate foodborne disease outbreaks, the group added.

Before the proposals were revealed, the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and others urged the Senate and House of Representatives to develop a fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill that funds FDA food safety programs.

Alison Bodor, AFFI president and CEO, said: “Providing sufficient federal resources to adequately fund FDA’s critical food safety activities, including the implementation of FDA’s FSMA without increasing costs for consumers and food makers is vitally important.

The AFFI-led coalition said it was important FDA had the training, technical assistance and infrastructure to implement FSMA effectively.

Coalition members included Campbell Soup Company, Cargill, Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, Conagra Brands, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association, The Hershey Company, The Kellogg Company, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Mars Incorporated, National Fisheries Institute, Nestlé USA, PepsiCo, Inc., Produce Marketing Association, Unilever, Inc., United Fresh Produce Association and Walmart.

CSPI, CSB chopped and ACS reaction

Michael Jacobson, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), highlighted the cuts to the budgets of the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services. 

“While USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is spared, the HHS cuts are likely to fall disproportionately on FDA’s food program. This all means more entirely preventable cases of foodborne illness, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer; and greater health-care costs.”

Democrats reaction

Frank Pallone Jr., energy and commerce committee ranking member, said the budget blueprint was not a serious proposal.

“The budget proposal could also endanger our nation’s pipeline of innovative drugs and medical devices by endangering funding for the FDA. The Trump budget proposes altering revenue streams for FDA from stable, appropriated funding to increased user-fee funding.

“This proposal could threaten the agency’s ability to hire and train medical product staff, carry out critical activities to ensure the safety and effectiveness of our drug supply, and effectively implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act which works to ensure a safe food supply.”

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said it was ‘disappointed’ to see the budget proposal eliminate the agency.  

“For over 20 years, the CSB has conducted hundreds of investigations of high consequence chemical incidents, such as the Deepwater Horizon and West Fertilizer disasters,” saidVanessa Allen Sutherland, CSB's chairperson.

“Our recommendations have resulted in banned natural gas blows in Connecticut, an improved fire code in New York City, and increased public safety at oil and gas sites across the State of Mississippi. 

“The American public is safer today as a result of the work of the dedicated and professional staff of the CSB. As this process moves forward, we hope that the important mission of this agency will be preserved.”

The CSB is an independent agency which investigates accidents in the chemical industry and makes recommendations to prevent future incidents.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) said the cuts were ‘extremely concerning’ because investments in non-defense research are critical to innovation infrastructure, job creation and economic growth.

President Trump's budget would increase defense spending by $54bn, taking such programs up to $639bn while cutting non-defense programs, including scientific research.

"ACS will continue to advocate for a strengthening of our national commitment to scientific research supported by key federal agencies such as the CSB, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation," said Thomas Connelly Jr, executive director and CEO.

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