Good news, everyone! The war against food-borne illness is over.
Oh, wait: no it isn’t. But, considering the deal made in Washington over the debt ceiling last week, it probably should be soon. Trillions of dollars in budget cuts were made over the course of the deal, including a discretionary spending cap which could slash as much as $917 billion from public health agency budgets which could, in turn, pose a major roadblock for future food safety efforts. Superb.
As Food Safety News reports, these cuts come just as the FDA is trying to implement the food safety law overhaul mandated in January’s monumental FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Food safety experts are concerned that the cuts could severely hinder the FDA’s ability to put any plans into action.
"I don't see [FDA] going above flat line at best ... which is effectively a cut," food safety consultant David Acheson, who served as associate commissioner of foods at FDA under the Bush administration, told Food Safety News. "FDA will likely stay on track with the [Food Safety Modernization Act] rule writing, but enforcement will be compromised as will the inspection mandates."
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The Alliance for a Stronger FDA, a consumer and industry interests group whose primary goal is lobbying for improved food and drug regulation, is reportedly also concerned by the cuts (though it also notes that even this is better than the spartan House-approved bill which would include an end to the Microbiological Data Program and a total of $87 million cut to food safety programs in the 2012 fiscal year alone). In response to the debt deal cuts, the Alliance for a Stronger FDA has reportedly vowed to continue lobbying for an FDA budget increase no matter what, and will ramp up its efforts with a targeted ad campaign in Washington DC starting in September.
"FDA's responsibilities are not going to shrink just because federal spending is being reduced. We hope Congress sees, as we do, that FDA is not optional," says Alliance deputy executive director Steven Grossman in an assessment of what to do next. "It is part of what society needs to function."