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Lawmakers Cut FDA Food Safety Funds

WASHINGTON—On June 16 the U.S. House of Representatives voted 217-203 to approve the agricultural appropriations bill for fiscal 2012 that begins Oct. 1, but slashed more than $100 million in U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) funding , denying the agency money to implement landmark food safety laws approved by the last Congress.

Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that was signed into law in January, President Obama was seeking $955 million for the FDA’s food-safety program. House Republican leaders slashed that number down to $750 million.

As reported by the Washington Post, the White House issued a statement saying the USDA would be forced to furlough inspectors at meat and poultry processing plants “and leave the FDA unable to meet the requirements the food safety law, which “calls for the FDA to significantly step up scrutiny of domestic and imported food and devise a system aimed at preventing the kind of contamination that sickens one in six Americans every year."

Results of a recent Pew-commissioned poll reveal 66 percent of U.S. voters are in favor of increasing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) funding by $183 million annually—a 5% increase—so the agency can bolster stronger food safety oversight granted by FSMA. The survey also showed 25 percent of Americans "worry a great deal" about food being contaminated with bacteria that makes it unsafe to eat. Overall, 85% said the government should be responsible for ensuring that food is safe to eat, and 71 percent believe the FDA plays a “very important" or "essential" role in protecting Americans’ health and safety.

Data also revealed 74 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay a 1% to 3% increase in the cost of food in order to pay for the new safety measures. Seventy percent of those surveyed favor food companies paying an average annual fee of $1,000 to help cover the cost of new FDA food-safety activities.

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