Reps. Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., have asked the Food and Drug Administration to stop asking Congress for user fees to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The lawmakers, in a letter sent Aug. 27 to Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell of the Department of Health and Human Services, asked the FDA to discontinue the request for user fees when it presents the FDA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request to Congress because the proposed fees hide the true cost of implementation. Congress rejected the last five requests to implement the food safety law through user fees and will likely do so again, according to the letter.
“No bill to authorize such fees has been introduced and even if enabling legislation is introduced this year, it is highly unlikely that any new law will be enacted in time to fund these vital FSMA implementation steps,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
Farr and DeLauro said that Congress has provided some of the funding necessary for the FSMA, but “much more funding will be required to make the larger, up-front investments necessary to ensure the public health benefits the law promises.” The lawmakers asked the FDA to request enough funds from Congress to support implementation of the food safety law.
FDA must have resources to retrain the existing inspection workforce, hire new staff and contract with state inspectors, Farr and DeLauro said in the letter. The FDA must provide training and technical assistance to help growers and processors to meet the law’s new requirements. Other investments must be made in a new risk-based oversight system, the letter said.
Industry user fees wouldn’t begin to approach the $400 million that the FDA says it needs for the FSMA, said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.
“Expecting user fees to cover those costs is a distraction from what is really needed: Congressional funding of FDA sufficient to enable FDA to implement what Congress has told them to do,” Gombas said in a Sept. 3 e-mail.