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Budget Woes Stall Food-Safety Centers of Excellence Progress

MINNEAPOLIS—Federal funding shortfalls have stalled the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) progress on establishing five centers of excellence—mandated as part of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)—that would serve as resources to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks, according to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP).

According to the CIDRAP news bureau, Craig Hedberg, PhD, a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, said the CDC had appointed an independent working group to help the agency establish the criteria for evaluating the centers in advance of announcing a funding opportunity. However, the CDC recently told the working group in a memo that after reviewing its fiscal year 2012 budget, it is unable to fund the centers until enough targeted funding for them is available.

The agency's memo said that a slight increase in food-safety funding will help address urgent food-safety priorities, but it isn't enough to fund the five centers, which the working group estimated would cost about $2.75 million.

In a memo to the working group, the CDC said that despite not being able to establish the centers this year, it will continue work on several related fronts, including strengthening and modernizing PulseNet and improving attribution analysis. It also said it would support various center activities through existing programs, such as developing foodborne illness outbreak training materials and developing standardized questionnaires for use in investigations. CDC added that it would prepare for the designation and funding of the centers, in case funding becomes available for fiscal years 2012 or 2013.

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