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Lawmakers Press FDA on Plant Inspections

May 18, 2021
A drop in the number of plant inspections is prompting lawmakers to press the FDA for an accounting of how it has been spending money allocated for food safety.

A drop in the number of plant inspections is prompting lawmakers to press the FDA for an accounting of how it has been spending money allocated for food safety.

Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), chair of its subcommittee on agriculture, co-signed a letter to acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock May 13 expressing concern about “the lack of transparency related to the [FDA’s] budget for food programs.” They noted that inspections were dropping even before the pandemic.

The letter states that from fiscal 2018 to 2019, while the FDA’s budget for food regulation enforcement remained steady, domestic plant inspections dropped 18%, and visual exams of imported food dropped 25%. The letter also notes that during fiscal 2019, Congress funded 2,179 full-time positions for the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, but only 785 positions were allocated for food safety and inspection staff. It asks for a breakdown on the budget allocation process as it relates to safety inspections and other functions.

The letter comes after FDA floated a proposal to cut back inspections even further as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Mike Taylor, former deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at FDA, told Politico that inspection of food facilities is a crucial part of the safety act and “it would be a mistake to repeal it.”

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