U.S. Senator Herb Kohl today held a hearing on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) budget and heard testimony from FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg about the agency's priorities for the next fiscal year. Kohl is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over funding for the FDA, and has worked to increase the FDA's budget to bolster their efforts to keep the food supply safe. Kohl pushed the FDA to increase the number of food safety inspectors domestically and abroad, and to develop new, regional rapid response teams across the country to identify and isolate contaminated produce at its source. Dr. Hamburg is a principal member of the President's Food Safety Working Group, the interagency group tasked with overhauling the food safety system.
Kohl has also worked closely with the FDA in their efforts to coordinate vaccine development and production, move more affordable generic drugs to the market sooner, and monitor the safety and effectiveness of medical devices.
"As we all know, the FDA is responsible for oversight of a wide array of consumer goods used by every American, often multiple times every day. In fact, about 20 cents out of every dollar spent is on a product regulated by the FDA. This includes foods, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, dietary supplements, vaccines, animal drugs and foods, and most recently, tobacco. The FDA's budget, for a long time, had not been representative of the tasks before the Agency. This Subcommittee, in recent years, has been working in a bipartisan manner to reverse that trend," Kohl said.
"This year's budget request again includes increased funding for FDA, although it's about one half of the increase provided in fiscal year 2010. While some believe this is a cause for alarm, it's a realistic reflection of the need for the government as a whole to slow down spending," Kohl continued.
Kohl noted that a brief review of the FDA budget would show that it includes increases in three overarching themes, which are food safety, protecting patients, and advancing regulatory science. There are also proposals to save money through contract savings and the enactment of new user fees.
· In food safety, increases are proposed for activities including the establishment of an integrated national food safety system, a modern import safety system, and additional and smarter surveillance and enforcement.
· For patient safety, increases are proposed to improve the safety of imports and high-risk products, expand partnerships with public and private entities, and to slightly increase FDA's capacity to review generic drug applications.
· The Advancing Regulatory Science Initiative includes proposed increases that will help strengthen FDA's scientific leadership, staff, and scientific capacities in emerging technologies.
In FY2008, Kohl worked to provide an increase of $90 million over the Bush Administration's request for the FDA, much of it directed to food safety. For FY2009, one of Kohl's priorities was to increase funding for the FDA by nearly $325 million over the previous year. The FY2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill included a $346 million increase for FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service.