FDA seeks big increase in food security funds

Feb 6, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking a $65 million increase in food security funds in fiscal year 2005, with more than half of the money to be used to improve capabilities for testing food for biological, chemical, and radiological contaminants.

The proposed increase for food security accounts for more than half of the FDA's proposed overall budget increase for the new fiscal year, which begins next October, the agency announced this week. The FDA seeks a budget of $1.8 billion, a net increase of $108.8 million, or 8.8%, over fiscal year 2004.

Of the $65 million increase, $35 million would be used "to increase the FDA's analytic surge capacity for biological, chemical, and radiological threat agents by enhancing the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN)," the FDA said in a Feb 2 statement.

When completed, FERN will be a nationwide network of federal and state laboratories capable of testing thousands of food samples, officials said. FDA plans call for adding 15 FDA-funded state labs next year to the 10 FDA labs planned for this year. The FDA operates FERN jointly with the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Another $15 million is intended for researching ways to prevent food tampering, determining the infectious dose of agents in food, and identifying agent characteristics in specific foods, officials said.

The FDA proposes to spend $7 million to increase inspections of domestic and imported food to prevent contamination. The agency said it expects to conduct 97,000 import field inspections, more than a 60% increase from last year, plus 26,000 inspections of domestic food firms. This year, partly to facilitate food inspections, the agency set new rules requiring advance notice of all food import shipments headed for the United States.

The proposed budget increase also includes $3 million for upgrading the FDA's capacity to respond quickly to threats to the food supply and $5 million to fund the agency's participation in a government-wide program for early detection of pathogens in food, water, and the environment.

Separate from the proposed food security budget is a proposed $8.3 million allocation to support new FDA and USDA safeguards against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, the FDA said. The money would allow the agency to increase inspections and analyses of animal feed and feed components. Current BSE-prevention regulations ban the use of cattle parts in cattle feed.

See also:

Feb 2 FDA news release on proposed 2005 food security budget

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