Business Week: "Ahead of the Bell: FDA funding questions"

Business Week:

Ahead of the Bell: FDA funding questions


Does the Food and Drug Administration have enough money to keep consumers safe?

That''s the question Senate lawmakers will ask FDA officials Tuesday, following a string of recalls that have battered the agency''s reputation and put its funding under scrutiny.

A Senate appropriations subcommittee meets at 10 a.m. EDT to look at the agency''s fiscal year 2009 budget.

FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach recently broke with past reassurances that funding levels were adequate and asked for more to ensure the safety of food, drugs and other products.

One likely reason for the turnabout: an onslaught of recalls. As pet food, hamburger meat and blood thinners were pulled from the market, concern over the agency''s prevention role has grown. The latest in a series of government reports on FDA said a shrinking staff and growing list of responsibilities have left it in a state of crisis that threatens American lives.

FDA''s advisers recommended boosting the agency''s budget by $375 million in the next fiscal year, and the Senate recently passed a resolution supporting such an increase. The White House proposed a $54 million increase in its budget.

Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, who chairs the subcommittee that sets FDA''s budget, is expected to question whether the agency''s plan to hire 200 additional safety inspectors is enough.

Last month, the FDA announced plans to place eight full-time inspectors in China, where the trail of tainted products often ends. Baxter International Inc.''s blood thinner heparin, which was recently associated with dozens of deaths and hundreds of allergic reactions, came from a Chinese plant.

FDA said inspectors did not visit the plant where the drug was made because they confused it with a similarly named factory.

Did You Know?

  • The FDA oversees 80 percent of the nation''s food supply, but only recieves 20 percent of food safety funding?
  • HACCP (Harzard Analysis and Critical Control Point) was originally developed for NASA to ensure the safety of food for consumption in space?
  • The FDA''s entire budget is actually less than the budget for the school system in Montgomory County, MD, where FDA resides?
  • Some in Congress would impose "User Fees" on Food Companies as a way to increase FDA''s budget. Such "fees" are really just new taxes on food and would undoubtedly be passed through to the consumer by way of higher food prices.
  • Current customs law already requires the importers of finished, packaged products, seafood, and some bulk foods to include country of origin labeling on the package. Beginning in 2008, fresh fruits and vegetables imported into the U.S. will also need to display their country of origin.