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Top 3 Things to Know about President Obama’s FY 2016 Food Safety Budget Proposal

By Miranda Peguese
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Knowing the government’s increased focus on food safety means companies must continually be audit ready with program sustainability as a focus for management and employees alike. Commitment to food safety and a sound preparation plan is key for facilities as they navigate through the increasing food safety regulatory oversight.

Food safety funding has been a major focal point for the FY 2016 budget proposed by President Obama. Primarily due in support of the fact that all major Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules are scheduled to take effect by the end of FY 2016, the increased focus will impact each of the agencies governing food safety within the US and all entities which fall under their jurisdiction.

Here are three things to know about the proposed food safety funding allocation for FY 2016:

1. There will be a sizeable increase in the allocation of food safety funding.

President Obama’s $3.99 trillion FY 2016 budget proposal allocates $1.6 billion for food safety, a significant increase in food safety funding over previous years. This would include increases of $301 million for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support new measures under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), resulting in a $109 million increase over the previous year as well as an additional $2.1 million increase to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over FY 2015’s $48 million allocation going towards food safety.

USDA budget requests would decrease slightly for FY 2016, requesting $1.012 billion vs. $1.016 billion for the previous year’s budget as a result of program related cost savings and correlated efficiencies and expects that a portion of the $2.9 billion for agricultural research and extension activities would support additional food safety requirements set forth by FSMA.

2. The proposed increase in food safety funds would include a prioritized food safety spending plan.

The increases to the allocated funding for food safety do not come without guidance. The funding increase includes a detailed plan for spending to include the following allocation:

  • $32 million for Nation Integrated Food Safety System
  • $25.5 million for New Import Safety Systems
  • $25 million for Inspection Modernization Training
  • $11.5 million for Industry Education and Technical Assistance
  • $4.5 million for Risk Analytics and Evaluation
  • $4 million for Technical Staffing and Guidance Development

The top three funding allocations noted are for integration, import, and inspection. These allotments directly reflect the directives set forth in FSMA

3. The plan also includes a proposed single food safety regulatory entity.

In addition to the increase in funding, the new plan outlined by President Obama also asks for Congress to combine several programs overseeing US food safety into a single agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Advocates of the plan state that the combination would provide “focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards, and clear lines of responsibility and accountability”, citing the current food safety system as being fragmented and outdated. Currently, a total of 12 agencies enforce 30 different laws. An alternate proposal has also been put forth by two members of congress which would suggest the formation of a new food safety agency independent of HHS.

How does this affect your facility? Knowing the government’s increased focus on food safety means companies must continually be audit ready with program sustainability as a focus for management and employees alike. Commitment to food safety and a sound preparation plan is key for facilities as they navigate through the increasing food safety regulatory oversight.

To learn more about the food safety allocations within the proposed FY 2016 budget, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm432576.htm and http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=BUDGET.

Lawmakers Introduce Bill for Single “Food Safety Administration”

Food safety oversight is currently split up among 15 agencies in the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Commerce. The Safe Food Act of 2015 introduced in both houses of Congress on Wednesday, aims to consolidate all the authorities for food safety inspections, enforcement and labeling into the Food Safety Administration.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced bills in Congress yesterday with a goal to establish a single, independent federal food safety agency. The aim is to improve food safety for consumers, while also cutting back on the costs of a dispersed system with overlapping responsibilities between agencies, according to Durbin.

 

“What the bill does is remedy the situation,” DeLauro said. “With a single agency, we believe our country will be able to have the ability to detect relatively minor problems before they become major outbreaks.”

The Act would provide the Food Safety Administration with mandatory recall authority for unsafe food, require risk assessments and preventive control plans to reduce adulteration, authorize enforcement actions to strengthen contaminant performance standards, improve foreign food import inspections, and require full food traceability to better identify sources of outbreaks.

DeLauro said the bill builds on the improvements made in FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The federal agencies that would be incorporated into one include:

  • FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM); 
  • The resources and facilities of FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs that administer and conduct inspections of food and feed facilities and imports; 
  • The resources and facilities of the Office of the FDA Commissioner that support CFSAN, CVM and inspections;
  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service;
  • The part of USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service that administers shell egg surveillance services;
  • The part of USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area related to food and feed safety;
  • The part of USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Health Service related to the management of animals going into the food supply; and
  • The part of the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce that administers the seafood inspection program. 

A single food safety agency is not a new concept, and the two lawmakers have sponsored Safe Food Acts five times before, though the most recent was in 2007. In addition, the Government Accountability Office has reported on the need for better coordination of food safety activities over the years.

DeLauro mentioned eggs as an example to show how complicated the current food safety landscape was: “One agency manages the health of hens, another oversees the feed that they eat, another sets egg quality standards but does not test them for Salmonella,” she said. “While still in its shell, the egg is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration, but once it’s processed into an egg product, it becomes the responsibility of Food Safety and Inspection Service.”

Durbin and DeLauro are hoping to build bipartisan support for the bills. Current cosponsors of the Senate Safe Food Act include Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Cosponsors in the House include Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), James Langevin (D-RI), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).