FDA seeks budget increase for food, medical product inspections

The Food and Drug Administration has asked in its fiscal 2009 budget request for a multimillion-dollar increase to improve its food inspection and medical product approval process.

FDA asked for a $42.2 million increase in its 2009 food supply protection budget, which will allow it to hire an 94 more food safety employees. The total fiscal 2009 food protection supply budget request is $661.8 million compared with $619.6 million in fiscal 2008. The agency also requested a $17.4 million increase in funding to improve medical product safety.

Last week, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate FDA because the agency "appears to have grossly inadequate resources to ensure the safety of imported foods as they come across the border."

In a letter to David M. Walker, comptroller general of GAO, Kennedy and Waxman said theyalso were concerned that an inadequate budget hampered FDA's ability to monitor the safety of medical devices such as pacemakers and hearing aids. The 2009 FDA budget request includes a funding line of $887.3 million versus $869.9 million in 2008. Kennedy and Waxman also cited an FDA Science Board report that said staffing shortfalls and inadequate information technology systems have resulted "in a plethora of inadequacies that threaten our society."

Catherine Woteki, global director of scientific affairs at candy manufacturer Mars Inc. and a member of the Science Board, told the board in December that FDA "does not have the capacity now to ensure the safety of food for the nation. The basic functions like inspection, enforcement and rulemaking are severely eroded."

Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said FDA's 2009 budget request represents a 5.7 percent increase over fiscal 2008 funding and will enable the agency "to continue development of the staff and programs necessary to safeguard the food we eat and improve the safety and development of drugs, vaccines, devices and other medical products."

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