Washington D.C. —The budget released today pays lip service to the important role of federal food safety programs, while proposing dramatic cuts to the agencies carrying out much of the work. As with the “skinny budget,” it continues to rely on gimmicks to disguise deep cuts to critical public protections, including a dramatic, and unrealistic, shift in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s funding from appropriations to industry user fees.
Past proposals to offset appropriations with increased user fees have led to chronic underfunding at FDA and delayed implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In tandem with unrealistic user fee increases, this budget proposes a cut of over $83 million in appropriations funding for food safety at FDA, and plans to reduce staff across FDA’s food safety program and specifically reduce funding for controls on food safety imports and research into food safety technology, outbreak responses, and FSMA implementation. As both consumer and industry groups have pointed out, Congress needs to dedicate more resources towards implementing FSMA, not less. Safe food is a public good that benefits every American every day and needs to be supported by sufficient public funding.
This holds equally true for the meat and poultry products regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS). While the budget stops short of proposing any immediate cuts to FSIS for FY2018, it advances a truly radical proposal to levy over half a billion dollars in FSIS user fees each year, starting in FY2019, which would become the sole source of revenue for all domestic inspection and import re-inspection. Past proposals to increase the limited user fee funding for FSIS have floundered in the face of industry unwillingness to assume added costs, and consumer and public health groups’ concerns related to conflict of interest. The current budget goes far beyond those past proposals and approximates a wholesale privatization of the country’s meat inspection system.
Finally, the budget proposes over a billion in cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This includes a cut of over $65 million to the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infections Diseases, which represents over 10% of the National Center’s budget. This is the part of CDC that is responsible for monitoring and coordinating responses of state and local public health departments to foodborne illness and other outbreaks. The budget purportedly “maintains support for CDC’s Food Safety activities” within the National Center, but against the backdrop of steep overall cuts, this claim rings hollow.
We urge congressional leaders to reject this misguided spending plan and work through the appropriations process to reach a consensus that includes strong public funding of all agencies’ food safety responsibilities.
Contact: Thomas Gremillion, 202-939-1010
The Safe Food Coalition is made up of consumer, public health and victim groups who work on issues related to food, and organizations representing labor in the food industry.