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President's 2016 Budget Proposes Single Food Safety Agency without Including Funding

The President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget proposes to create a single new food safety agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The new agency would take over the food safety functions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, of the $1.6 billion allocated for food safety in the budget, none is specifically earmarked for a new food safety agency. Rather, that amount includes $1.5 billion for existing food safety activities within FDA and $1.012 billion for USDA food safety activities.

The $1.5 billion requested for food safety activities across FDA represents a $301 million increase over the FY 2015 budget, with $109 million of the increase designated for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FDA is under court-ordered deadlines to issue key final FSMA rules in the summer and fall of 2015, and in the spring of 2016. The increased funding is needed for effective FSMA implementation, according to FDA. Explaining, Michael R. Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, wrote in FDAVoice:

Under FSMA, our approach to food safety inspections and compliance will be fundamentally different. FDA will deploy inspectors who are specialized in specific food commodities, rather than covering a broad range of FDA-regulated products. Backed by technical experts, they will assess the soundness and performance of a facility's overall food safety system. Achieving this will require a major reorientation and retraining of more than 2,000 FDA inspectors, compliance officers and other staff involved in food safety activities.

The President's proposed budget also includes $5 million in user fees from Food Contact Notification (FCN) submissions. While this is not the first time the president's proposed budget has included user fees for FCN submissions, the fees have never been included in Agriculture Appropriation Bills passed by Congress.