WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2015 – As implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act approaches, states are beginning to express their concern about the looming timeline.
FSMA was signed into law in early 2011 and is hailed as the “most sweeping reform” of food safety laws in more than 70 years. Since then, implementation and funding hurdles have mired the legislation designed to overhaul the FDA’s food safety program. On Monday at the Winter Policy Conference of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), FDA officials met with state leaders to discuss funding problems that go along with the complex legislation.
“Funding of FSMA implementation has been a recognized challenge from the beginning of the process,” Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, told NASDA members. He called the integration of state and federal food safety systems FDA’s “biggest bucket” to fill in the funding process, costing an estimated $32 million.
In his FY 2016 budget, President Barack Obama requested an additional $109.5 million in budget authority to “continue to close the gap between the resources FDA has received and those required for timely, effective FSMA implementation,” according to the FDA website.
Obama’s proposed increase would give implementation about $1.3 billion in budget authority, but some local leaders are worried if that will be enough. In a discussion with industry representatives and FSMA advocates, Chuck Ross, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, used produce as an example of a part of FSMA that could almost cost $300 million on its own. He pointed out to his colleagues that produce is only one of seven rules in the bill.
Ross said he was “deeply concerned” that the budget won’t cover the demands of the legislation, “so the job will get passed down to the states, and we’ll be left holding the bag.”
Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture and chair of NASDA’s Food Regulation Committee, also expressed concern about being able to be up and running with full FSMA implementation by late 2016 and 2017, the timeframe in the bill.
“We’re two and a half years away from inspections. We don’t have any staff, we haven’t trained staff, we don’t have any money, we’re short on lab capacity,” Coba said. “This is why Secretary Ross is having an absolute conniption fit on behalf of all of us, and it’s much appreciated.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures points out that while there are no specific state requirements under FSMA, “the law encourages the FDA to rely heavily on current state food safety and inspection programs.”
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