Federal food safety and inspection funding is set to be cut by nearly $10m, in a second wave of money saving measures by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is the food inspection service segment of the USDA, is set to take a budget cut of around $9m – with funding for the service falling from the $888m estimated to be spent in 2012 to $879m for 2013.
The proposed budget, which will cover the period from 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2013, is part of the same Presidents Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Budget that saw the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) request an additional $250m in funding.
Despite the cuts, the agency intends to continue with its aim of reducing the number of foodborne illnesses related to its inspected products.
Money saving measures
The FSIS spending cut comes just weeks after the US government outlined plans to close a third of FSIS offices across the US, as part of a sweeping set of money-saving measures.
According to the agency, the budget provides sufficient funding to meet its food safety and inspection requirements.
“The Budget provides the full amount necessary to meet regulatory responsibilities, which reflects implementation of modernised poultry inspection practices,” said a USDA statement.
“To ensure that FSIS can support its approximately 8,400 Federal in-plant and other frontline personnel, the Federal share of State inspection programs, and continue to improve the data infrastructure supporting the Nation’s food safety system, the 2013 Budget proposes a discretionary funding level of $996m, a net decrease of more than $8m."
“Also, the recently proposed rule to modernise poultry inspection would focus FSIS inspection resources on the areas of the poultry production system that pose the greatest risk to food safety.”
“By focusing inspectors only on the areas that are crucial to food safety, these changes will not only enhance consumer safety but will improve efficiency,” it added.
Contamination reduction aims
Despite the cuts, the FSIS intends to continue with its aim of reducing the number of foodborne illnesses related to its inspected products.
The agency has laid out a set of goals in accordance with the funding it has requested for 2013.
It hopes to reduce the total number of illnesses related to FSIS products in 2013 to 394,770 – compared with 405,178 for 2012.
It also hopes to increase the proportion of establishments with a functional food defence plan - written procedures that food processing establishments should follow to protect the food supply from intentional contamination.