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Food safety: FDA budget afterthought

u.s department of food

I have been calling for detaching federal food safety functions from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and creating a new Department of Food and Nutrition, headed by a cabinet-level secretary. It’s time for a Department of Food and Nutrition | Food Safety News

richard smoley produce blueprints

Bill Marler, the leading food safety litigator in the United States, issued a similar call (though for a separate food agency, not department).

Because it’s easy to believe that FDA just doesn’t care about food safety.

Look at its budget request for fiscal 2024.

Out of a total of $7.2 billion, FDA is requesting “$128.2 million in investments in food safety and nutrition modernization, including food labeling and animal food safety oversight. While the agency is in the process of defining its future vision for the Human Foods Program, there is significant need for additional resources to strengthen its foundational food safety and nutrition capacity.”

FDA is requesting approximately 1.8 percent of its total budget for food safety.

Much of this money will go toward regulating infant formula in the wake of the agency’s inept handling of the Abbott Labs fiasco in 2022. The Food Safety System Is Failing | IndustryWeek

Other funds will be directed to food safety revisions recently set out by FDA commissioner Robert Califf, despite widespread doubts about their value or efficacy. FDA restructuring: not good enough – Produce Blue Book

One complaint has to do with Califf’s proposal for a new deputy commissioner to handle food safety: this new commissioner does not have “direct line authority.”

“Line authority involves centralization of power, a clear chain of command, and work directly related to the company’s customer-facing products or services,” says one Internet source. 

Califf’s response in a recent interview with Marler: “You know my background was in medicine, and there was a time when the surgeon was in charge of the operating room and no one else could say anything. That was not good.” Publisher’s Platform: Twenty-eight minutes with FDA Commissioner Califf | Food Safety News

Another thing that may not be good is looking at food safety through the eyes of, say, a cardiologist (which is what Califf is).

As for a separate food agency, “a lot of people have made the point that deconstructing this would have a significant cost,” Califf counters. “And in a time where so much change is going on in with what we’re regulating, it’s sort of like changing the tires while the thing is going down the street.”

Some might retort that it’s actually a matter of changing the tires because the thing can no longer go down the street.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.