Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg testified before U.S. Senator Herb Kohl's appropriations panel today about the agency's budget request for the next fiscal year. Kohl is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the FDA's budget, and has worked closely with the Administration on their efforts to keep the food supply safe. Kohl succeeded in increasing the number of food safety inspectors domestically and abroad, and helped develop new, regional rapid response teams across the country to identify and isolate contaminated produce at its source. The FDA budget request for this fiscal year includes an increase of $385 million, or 14 percent, above the funding level provided in fiscal year 2010 -- including $183 million to begin implementation of the new Food Safety Modernization Act passed by Congress last year.
"I have supported your work because I think it's the job of the federal government to make sure that our food and drugs are safe, and we need to make sure you have the funding you need to do that," Kohl said. "This is not something we can relegate to states, local government or private industry. The world, and the way our food and drugs are produced, is becoming more complex every day, and it is important for FDA to have the ability to adapt to these changes."
Kohl continued: "Every dollar of taxpayer money that we spend in our bill must be questioned, defended, and well thought out. During a time when overall government spending is declining, this budget request is an exception. Among other things, we are here today to talk about why this increase is necessary."
Kohl began a comprehensive review of the nation's food safety laws in 2007. Last year, in a report commissioned by Kohl, the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) noted that the FDA is responsible for overseeing approximately 80% of the U.S. food supply, including all produce, seafood and cheeses. The IOM report called on the FDA to continue to integrate food safety inspection and surveillance programs between the state and federal government, something Kohl initiated several years ago.
Late last year, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, the first comprehensive reform of the nation's food safety laws since the 1930's. The law includes a provision championed by Kohl that allows the FDA to refuse imported food from a foreign facility that does not allow U.S. inspectors into the country to inspect a facility within 48 hours of a request to enter.