The Food and Drug Administration has again floated the possibility of new industry user fees to fund food safety oversight, but industry leaders want to sink the idea for good.
In testimony delivered to the Senate Appropriations Committee in late May, FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor said Congress has shown interest in a food processing facility registration fee. That, he said, would be similar to the registration fees pay by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.
“Another user fee model that some countries use to fund their import inspection activities is an import entry fee, in which importers pay a fee for each food entry, the proceeds of which are dedicated to improving oversight over imported food,” Taylor said in prepared remarks.
With upwards of $450 million in additional funding needed by fiscal year 2017 to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, Taylor said industry user fees could cover a substantial part of the budget shortfall. FDA has been discussing fee options with food safety stakeholders to see if any options are acceptable, he said.
According to the FDA’s report to Congress, user fees would create food safety regulations and guidance, pay for domestic and import inspections, improve the scientific infrastructure in the agency, and speed integration efforts between federal and state food safety entities.
The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas is asking Congress to fund FDA at needed levels, said Allison Moore, director of legislative and regulatory affairs for the Nogales, Ariz.-based association, But Moore said May 29 that user fees applied to imported produce and not domestic produce wouldn’t be fair.
“For us, looking at a fee that would apply to one group and not another is certainly something we have great reluctance in accepting,” she said.
Moore said the FPAA continues to communicate with the FDA about making food safety efforts by government and industry more effective and efficient.
The $4.7 billion fiscal year 2014 budget proposed for the FDA by the White House earlier this year included a nearly $300 million increase in food safety programs, funded mostly with new user fees for food facility registrations, inspections and food importers. In April, Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., called the proposed user fees a “non-starter.”