Food safety groups oppose bill to end shutdown at FDA

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“House Republican leadership should not be cherry-picking which agencies reopen and which remain shuttered,” the Center for Food Safety said in a statement on Monday. “Food safety is broader than just the FDA. It is a critical issue that relies on a number of federal agencies working in tandem with one another to ensure that our entire food system is protected.”

On Monday, the House will vote on the Food and Drug Safety Act. The measure is part of a House Republican effort to approve targeted spending bills for individual agencies and objectives.

It would bring back the more than 6,600 employees placed on furlough at the FDA who make up about 45 percent of its total staffers. That would restore all of its food safety and nutrition oversight, which has been largely curtailed by the government shutdown.

Without funding from Congress, the FDA has been unable to perform its routine facility inspections, as well as other compliance work, laboratory research and import monitoring.

But safety groups say that food safety depends on a web of agencies, and funding just one would be the wrong approach.

“Food safety is a joint government effort involving 13 different agencies often working collaboratively,” officials from the Center for Science in the Public Interest wrote in a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “We urge Congress to oppose cherry-picking certain priorities for funding in a piecemeal fashion because this is not a credible solution to this self-imposed budget crisis.” 

They add that FDA should be given more money than what the House bill calls for.

In addition to the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are responsible for helping to track and stop foodborne illnesses. Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is tasked with regulating seafood and the Environmental Protection Agency oversees the use of pesticides.

President Obama has pledged to veto the FDA funding bill as well as other measures that would just open up part of the government.