FDA proposes increased fees to finance food safety

“These are tight budget times, and the FDA budget request reflects this reality,” Commissioner of Food and Drugs Dr. Margaret Hamburg said in a statement releasing the budget.

Many of the new fees will be used to support the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which directed the FDA to focus on preventing food contamination before it occurs, rather than responding to new outbreaks. Programs to support that law, scheduled to cost $295 million next year, will be 85 percent funded by user fees.

"These investments will provide industry with consistent and transparent food and feed safety guidance to assure the safety of America’s food and feed supply," the agency asserts in its budget proposal. It also claims the price "is modest compared to the economic value it can deliver: reduced costs to industry, government, and the health care system due to less foodborne illness."

According to the FDA, there are 48 million food-borne illnesses each year, which lead to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, at a total estimated cost of more than $78 billion.

The agency is proposing six new fees to pay for new safety programs: one on food imports; another for food facility registration and inspection; a new fee for cosmetic manufacturers; one for plastic and machinery substances that come into contact with food; a charge for international couriers and a fee for follow-up inspections of medical establishments required to ensure previous citations have been remedied.

The agency expects these new fees to generate $269 million to support its efforts.