WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, urged Congress to support funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s food safety functions in advance of a House hearing on the FDA budget.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing this Friday starting at 10 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building 2362-A. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg will testify.
Congress voted to overhaul the nation’s food safety laws in December 2010. The bipartisan vote followed a string of contaminations of common foods such as eggs, spinach, and peanut products. The new law – the Food Safety Modernization Act — requires more frequent inspections of food facilities and, for the first time, gives the FDA the authority to order recalls of tainted food.
However, three months later, Congress is now considering budget cuts that could seriously hamper the FDA’s ability to inspect facilities and oversee the safety of food coming to American consumers from overseas.
Jean Halloran, the director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, said, “Cutting our nation’s food safety budget is penny wise and pound foolish. Foodborne illness is hugely expensive. It’s estimated that food contaminations cost our country more than $150 billion a year. Preventing foodborne illness is far cheaper than treating it.”
Ami Gadhia, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “The outbreak of salmonella-tainted peanut butter made it painfully clear we had to do a better job of keeping our food safe, but these proposed cuts could undo the reforms we need. Every year about 48 million people get sick from foodborne diseases, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die. This is not the time to pull the rug out from under those who oversee the safety of our food.”