In the midst of a deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany, the House Appropriations Subcommittee wants to defund the U.S. food safety system. Last week, a proposal cutting the budget of the FDA and the USDA made it out of committee and became HR 2112. It’s likely to be voted on in the next few weeks.
HR 2112, sponsored by Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, is a 98-page bill that proposes budget amounts for a wide variety of programs, ranging as widely as agricultural research programs (shutting them down) to WIC appropriations ($686 million less) to food safety inspections.
The official description of the bill is:
Making appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, and for other purposes.
I’m only looking at a few of the cuts here, but there are many more that would be worth considering for their effects on ordinary citizens. You can read the full text of HR 2112 online.
Fewer Food Safety Inspections, Fewer Jobs
The bill proposes cutting the budget of the FDA to $87 million below its current budget. With the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act last fall, the FDA was expected to increase its workforce to provide more inspections of domestic food facilities. Less money means fewer inspections, not more.
The FDA was also charged with inspecting imported foods and holding them to the same standards as domestically produced foods. The FDA was to accomplish this by creating a third party inspection system. These third parties would be private companies, not government, thus creating jobs in the private sector.
The USDA isn’t left out of the budget cuts. $35 million gets cut from the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service. They inspect meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Fewer inspections means lower food safety standards. Most companies will be good citizens, but some will see an opportunity for cost-cutting and higher profits and will put Americans at risk for foodborne illness.
At Least There Will Still Be Ads
In an odd twist, the Market Access Program retains its $200 million in funding. According to the Washington Post, the Market Access Program funds overseas advertising. That’s right, less oversight in food safety, more job cuts, and your tax dollars will be sent overseas.
The Food Safety Modernization Act, if properly funded, is a job creator – in both the private and public sectors. This Congress got voted in on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs. HR 2112 moves in the opposite direction.
What Can You Do?
Let your representative know what you think of HR 2112. You can find your representative here by typing in your zip code.
The Senate is also working on their budget bills. It might not hurt to let your senators know what you think of the House’s ideas on food safety.
Image by Secret Tenerife, used with Creative Commons license.