Today the FDA announced its budget request as part of the President’s 2023 fiscal year budget. Within the food sector, the agency is asking for $43 million for food safety modernization (including animal food safety) oversight—which includes efforts in continued implementation of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative. The funding will also go towards improving preventative food safety practices, data sharing, predictive analytics and traceability, which will help the agency respond to outbreaks and recalls faster. “In partnership with states, the FDA will expand efforts to modernize, harmonize and transform the U.S. animal food inspection system to become more comprehensive and prevention oriented,” the FDA stated in an email release.
The FDA also requested $14 million in funding to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins in food. Last year the agency came under fire following a report released by Congress that stated there was an alarming amount of toxic heavy metals found in baby food. In response, the FDA devised a “Closer to Zero” action plan with a goal of reducing the presence of dangerous metals in foods commonly consumed by babies and young children. “Additional funding and legislative proposals will focus specifically on better protecting mothers, infants and young children through contamination limits in food, product testing requirements, notification of anticipated significant interruptions in the supply of infant formula or essential medical foods, as well as modernization of dietary supplement regulation,” the FDA stated.
Under the FDA’s funding requests that serve its core operations, the agency asked for $68 million for data modernization and enhanced technologies, which includes improving infrastructure aligned to the food programs; and $24 million to optimize inspections, including increasing support for recruiting and training new FDA investigators.
The FY budget covers October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023.
At the end of his reflection on FDA’s 2021 accomplishments in the food realm, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas stated that he believes collaboration will enable industry to “bend the curve of foodborne illnesses in this decade”. It would be a significant milestone, and in his latest FDA Voices blog, Yiannas reviewed a host of FDA achievements that bring his statement much closer to a reality:
Following the report released by Congress in February regarding an alarming amount of toxic heavy metals found in baby food, the FDA has released an action plan that aims to reduce the presence of those dangerous metals to the “lowest possible levels” in common foods consumed by babies and young children. The “Closer to Zero” plan takes research, regulatory and outreach into consideration and will use the following approach:
Evaluating the scientific basis for action levels. FDA will evaluate existing data from routine testing of food, research and data on chemical analytical methods, toxicological assays, exposure and risk assessments, and other relevant scientific information.
Proposing action levels for specific toxic elements in baby food categories that include cereal, formula, and pureed fruits and vegetables.
Working with stakeholders and federal partners on proposed action levels— including collecting data and information from workshops and scientific meetings—and assessing the feasibility of the proposed action levels and timeframes for achieving them. The FDA will use and monitor the information to finalize the action levels.
“Our action plan will start with prioritizing our work on those elements for which we have the most data and information – arsenic and lead – while research continues on other elements, progressing through each element over time across various categories of foods consumed by babies and young children,” stated Janet Woodcock, M.D., acting FDA commissioner and Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of CFSAN. “During the plan’s first year (phase one), we will be proposing action levels for lead in categories of foods consumed by babies and young children, consulting with and gathering data from stakeholders and federal partners on issues such as the feasibility of meeting action levels for lead, and sharing resources with industry on best practices for reducing or preventing lead contamination. We will also complete updated sampling assignments testing toxic element levels in baby foods and evaluate the science related to arsenic exposure from foods beyond infant rice cereal. Phases two, three and beyond are outlined in our plan.” Phase 2 runs from April 2022 until April 2024 and will expand the agency’s work into cadmium and mercury, as well as finalize action levels for lead. Phase three and beyond begins in April 2024 and will finalize action levels for arsenic.
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