Budget cuts lead to decreased support for new FDA laws

Lauren J. Mapp, Features Editor

A set of new FDA laws was created early this year to help prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness, but recent budget cuts have made it nearly impossible to ensure that these laws are in practice.

President Barack Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act into law in January, but in the past nine months, very little progress has been made due to a lack of resources and a slow implementation timeline.

In the past summer alone, several strains of foodborne illness outbreaks have affected the populace.  At least one person has died and many more have been poisoned or sickened throughout the nation. According to the New York Times, this included outbreaks of salmonella found in ground turkey, papayas and sprouts, as well as an E. coli outbreak found in strawberries.

The new FSMA contains more stringent measures to prevent food safety problems, better responses to such complications and improvements of the safety standards of imported foods, as stated on the FDA’s website. Over the course of this year a set of intricate rules are being created in order to regulate the new policies.

As with aspects of many federally funded programs, Republicans must have thought these new laws were unnecessary, and therefore did not have a problem removing the means necessary to enforce them.

It’s no secret that the Republican Party associates with agricultural lobbyists in Washington. Take for instance the fact that Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass named food industry lobbyist John W. Billings as his chief of staff last year, according to The Washington Post.

Though every new act or law that is created is intended to be beneficial to the country as a whole, it would be naïve to say that the FSMA does not have its own underlying set of problems. The added stress to the pockets of already financially strapped small and mid-scale farmers may be one of the negative side effects once the rules are in place.

Despite the added monetary obligations, the strings of preventable food borne illness outbreaks stemmed from fruit and vegetable products have proven time after time that the factory farming industry is unable or unwilling to police themselves.

The solution to this problem is simple, but requires several working parts to make sure that the laws can be enforced as they were intended.

The most important issue at play is that Washington needs to cease the partisan line bullying that takes place between sides. Instead of fighting the issue from the stance of whose ideology is better than the other, politicians needs to work in the best interest of the people.

In addition, the role that lobbyists play in our political system needs to be weakened. By either banning or limiting their strength in politics, Americans would start to see that laws could not only be created, but would also maintain their strength in order to protect the overall health of the nation.

The economic crisis in the country would also need to be solved so that budget cuts can be prevented in the future. As Warren Buffett has recently stated, the wealthiest citizens of our nation should be taxed at a greater percentage for the good of the country. By doing this, the Treasury would be able to stabilize itself.

Once there is more funding and programs aren’t as greatly constricted as they are in their current state, then giving money to the FDA so that it can regulate the farming industry should help to make food safer to eat.