House Republicans cut $87 million from the FDA's budget, denying the agency money to implement landmark food safety laws approved in December by the last Congress, reports The Washington Post. No Democrats voted in favor of the agriculture appropriations bill, which passed by a vote of 217 to 203. Nineteen Republicans joined the Democrats in opposition.
Also slashed by $35 million is funding for the Agriculture Department's food safety inspection service, which oversees meat, poultry and some egg products. Lawmakers also chopped $832 million from an emergency feeding program for poor mothers, infants and children,denying emergency nutrition to about 325,000 mothers and children.
President Obama, who sought $955 million for the FDA's food safety program beginning in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, opposed many of the cuts, saying the USDA would be forced to furlough inspectors at meat and poultry processing plants and leave the FDA unable to meet the requirements of the new food safety law.
Republican leaders in the House argued the U.S. food supply is 99 percent safe and the cuts were needed to lower the national deficit, slashing the budget to $750 million.
"Do we believe that McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Safeway and Kraft Foods and any brand name that you think of, that these people aren't concerned about food safety?" asked Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the House subcommittee, who wrote the bill. "The food supply in America is very safe because the private sector self-polices, because they have the highest motivation. They don't want to be sued, they don't want to go broke. They want their customers to be healthy and happy."
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) tried unsuccessfully to restore some money to FDA by arguing that the agency is overwhelmed by imported foods, inspecting just about 1 percent of the supply after it arrives in U.S. ports.
Meanwhile, Government investigators examined 17 recalls of contaminated imported foods and found that the FDA failed to inspect or gather enough data about the products in 14 of the cases, reports The New York Times. The audit also found that the agency failed to confirm the disposal of the products in 13 of the recalls. David Dorsey, an acting deputy commissioner at the FDA, said the newly passed food safety law would address some of the concerns cited in the audit and that the agency is considering hiring contractors to help with recalls.Good luck with that.