Food Safety Not a Factor in Trump Budget Blueprint
The question of what President Trump is going to do with food safety is coming up frequently and currently lacks a clear direction. In this week’s newsletter, we are taking a quick look at the recent budget to see if there are any clues that could help answer the question.
President Trump’s recently proposed 2018 budget confirms the objectives of his Administration to be exactly those on which he’s been focused since his campaign. And with that same regard carrying through to areas which have received little to no mention, it would appear that food safety will be neither a priority nor a vulnerability to this administration. Rather it is being pretty much left alone. Considering how other areas are being targeted, the fact that food safety is being left alone should be taken as a victory for those looking to enhance food safety and for a loss for those looking to the Trump Administration to roll back FSMA.
While neither FDA nor USDA budgets have been among the areas targeted for massive cuts in the “America First, A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” neither have they been recommended for any increase. The budget requests for the two agencies are, however, less than the 2017 levels, at $69.0 billion for HHS, a $15.1 billion (17.9%) percent decrease from the 2017 continuing resolution (CR) and $17.9 billion for USDA, a $4.7 billion (21%) decrease.
One point of interest is the comparison of FDA and USDA recommendations in relation to food. For USDA, the document states that the budget “safeguards the Nation’s supply of meat, poultry, and egg products by fully funding the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which employs more than 8,000 in-plant and other frontline personnel who protect public health in approximately 6,400 federally inspected slaughter and processing establishments nationwide.”
For FDA, it states ... nothing. While FDA is mentioned in the Health & Human Services section (under which it falls), there is no reference to food safety, let alone to FSMA, rather the focus is completely on other health and medical services. In fact, the only mention of food is the elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which includes emergency food assistance services (stating that it is duplicative).
This disregard can be seen as positive or negative. Although FDA – which is responsible for regulating 80% of America’s food – is already underfunded and could use a bump in its budget, we can be thankful that the massive cuts that are being recommended don’t seem to be touching FSMA or any other current food safety initiatives and programs. Additionally, despite President Trump’s statement to “do more with less, and make the Government lean and accountable to the people,” and the recent GAO recommendations for a national strategy to address fragmentation in federal oversight of food safety, there is no mention made in this document about creating a single food agency or even recommending additional partnering or strategizing.
But, probably most important to remember is that this is simply a proposed budget which goes next to Congress for approval – where it can (and usually is) subject to massive change. Although I don’t see it as likely that Congress will cut food safety, I don’t know that they are likely to increase it either.
To go full circle and determine exactly what will happen to food safety in the near future from an administration perspective: The proposed budget indicates that things will not change; the regulatory roll back strategy across the government also suggests to me that food safety, and especially FSMA, is not really a significant target.
My advice to the food industry is to continue to plan on FSMA being fully implemented under the current timelines. Budgets for FDA and FSIS that do not increase, per the proposed budget, effectively translate into a decrease in funds for regulatory agencies. This is due to inflation and other uncontrollable cost increases. Thus, one can expect FDA to move slowly on FSMA implementation inspections; but when they do occur, the inspectors will expect you to be compliant.
About The Acheson Group (TAG)
Led by Former FDA Associate Commissioner for Foods Dr. David Acheson, TAG is a food safety consulting group that provides guidance and expertise worldwide for companies throughout the food supply chain. With in-depth industry knowledge combined with real-world experience, TAG's team of food safety experts help companies more effectively mitigate risk, improve operational efficiencies, and ensure regulatory and standards compliance. www.AchesonGroup.com