For Immediate Release
President’s Budget Shortchanges Food Safety
Statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
WASHINGTON - "The budget proposed today by President Obama for fiscal year 2013 contains cuts to critical food safety programs, particularly the agency responsible for meat and poultry inspection, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"Under this proposed budget, FSIS will take a cut in appropriations for the second year in a row. The President’s proposed FY 2013 budget assumes the approval of a new rule that would privatize key consumer protection activities in large poultry slaughter plants to save the agency $12.9 million. However, this controversial scheme to shift poultry inspection responsibilities to company employees is still in the proposed-rule stage and the public comment period is still open.
"FSIS has never fully evaluated a pilot program testing this type of inspection program. It is irresponsible for the administration to proceed with the implementation of this privatized inspection system until all the facts are collected about whether it can achieve the same level of consumer protection as traditional inspection. Today at the USDA’s budget briefing, Food & Water Watch presented a petition signed by over 8,000 consumers opposed to the privatized poultry inspection proposal.
"The proposed budget also calls for new user fees that will require congressional approval. One of the proposals, to require companies to pay FSIS for costs incurred after the company has failed to meet food safety standards, has some merit. According to the agency, it cost FSIS $172,424 to conduct its investigation into the largest Class I recall in its history, when 36 million pounds of ground turkey produced by Cargill was recalled due to contamination with antibiotic-resistant salmonella that sickened 136 consumers and caused one death.
"Companies involved in recalls should be compelled to reimburse the government for the investigation and recovery of recalled product. We are very concerned, however, about how another proposal for an inspection user fee will be implemented. Inspection is a public health function that should be performed by a government agency. We do not support inspection fees that would compromise the integrity of the inspection process by making companies a major funder of routine government inspections.
"The President’s proposed budget would cut appropriations for the FDA and relies on registration fees for a significant piece of FDA’s funding. The FDA has many new responsibilities under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act that require more resources for the agency. But it remains to be seen if registration fees are an appropriate way to make up this funding gap. We would certainly not support using money generated by registration fees to implement the certification of private third-party auditors or to continue to throw additional money at state inspection programs that are not working."
Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.