Listeria Outbreaks Prompt Support for FDA Budget Increase

By: Michael Engle

It is often said that "once is an incidence, twice is a coincidence, but thrice is a pattern."  Last September, the US Food and Drug Administration confirmed a pattern of listeria-laced domestic produce, as the government agency recalled cantaloupes from Colorado's Jensen Farms.  As a result, these unsafe melons have become the third such case in the last three years, following a November 2010 finding in certain Texas celery, as well as an April 2009 recall of Connecticut sprouts.

In response to these potentially fatal findings, President Barack Obama has lobbied for a 17% increase in the FDA budget, with increased federal spending effective fiscal year 2013.  However, because this plan would be achieved by increasing company fees instead of tax dollars, the FDA has requested an additional $220 million budgetary increase.  These budgetary plans will undoubtedly become contentious among Washington's Democrats and Republicans.

TIME Magazine correspondent Steven Gray further notes that the FDA has had many issues on its plate recently, extending beyond just listeria.  As a result, one year ago, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law, which introduced a sweeping reform of FDA practices.  Under this new legislation, the FDA has shifted its focus, from reacting to food-borne illnesses, to becoming more pre-emptive in preventing them from spreading.

Though certain politicians may dislike further funding towards "isolated incidents," it is clear that the associated health risks are severe yet preventable.  It is of utmost importance to ensure that fresh American food-whether livestock, dairy, eggs, or produce-be as safe as possible for market sales and human consumption.

Photo: AJC1

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