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FDA budget request includes scant money for food safety programs

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The Food and Drug Administration has requested $7.2 billion for the fiscal year 2024.

According to President Biden’s budget proposal, the agency wants $128 million of that allocated for food safety programs. The FDA also proposed legislative action from Congress to expand its authority and ability to intervene to prevent contamination or shortages of the food and drug supply. 

The agency has been under fire for the lack of a clear chain of command on the food side of its responsibilities as well as underfunding, compared to the drug side of its operations. A portion of the $128.2 million would go toward the food safety revisions outlined recently by FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. 

Califf has proposed changes that he says will help with response and prevention in food safety matters, but critics say his proposed deputy commissioner position lacks the authority to make a difference.

The FDA’s budget proposal also includes money to strengthen responses to shortages of critical foods, including infant formula. The infant formula crisis of 2022 — sparked by findings of Cronobacter contamination in an Abbott Nutrition production plant that manufactured Similac and other popular brands, and the subsequent recall and temporary closure of the plant — brought to light the agency’s lack of ability to respond to such occurrences.

Part of the $128.2 million request would also include:

  • $10 million in investments in enterprise data and information technology (IT) modernization;
  • $16 million for regulatory and mission support functions within the Office of the Commissioner; and 
  • $9.4 million for FDA buildings, facilities, and infrastructure improvements.

Proposals for the food safety efforts of the agency include legislative efforts to boost the FDA’s authority to pursue food safety and some other areas of its operations. Those items include:

  • Requiring the industry to test final food products marketed for consumption by infants and children for toxic elements and allowing the FDA access to those records;
  • Enhancing tools to help reduce exposure to toxic elements in the food supply, especially food consumed by infants and young children, including the new authority to establish binding contamination limits in food;
  • Broadening the agency’s authority to request records or other information in advance of or in lieu of inspections to include all FDA-regulated product areas, explicitly including food; and
  • Requiring animal drug sponsors to implement changes designed to protect consumers from drug residues in animals intended for human food by making post-approval safety-related labeling changes based on new data, developing programs for the safe use of certain products, and requiring post-approval studies based on new safety information that becomes available after approval.

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