House Vote for More Food Safety Money Praised
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
June 20, 2008
The Food and Drug Administration desperately needs the $150 million in new money approved by the House of Representatives last night, particularly the $67 million designated for the Centers for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. It's good news for consumers, merchants, and restaurateurs, who are sick and tired of outbreaks like the latest one linked to tomatoes, which result in illnesses, wasted food, and a reduction in consumer confidence in our federal food safety programs. While FDA urgently needs even more funding, we're glad that the House leadership and the White House came to agreement on this down payment for restoring credibility to the FDA.
Now it is important that Congress put this money to work by enacting the reforms the public needs to keep our food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, free of deadly bacteria. Growers and all food producers should be required to have written food safety plans, and the FDA should be given clear authority to conduct inspections of farms and food processors. In addition, FDA should be required to conduct more frequent inspections of food processors here and abroad, and should be given mandatory recall authority, a tool most Americans would be surprised to learn it does not yet have.
As welcome as this new food safety money is, one can't help but notice how small that sum seems in the context of a $162 billion bill. Clearly in the current budget climate, national priorities— like a safe food supply for Americans— are taking a back seat.