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US Food Supply Growing Riskier: FDA Science Board

Posted: December 12, 2007

An urgent report just issued by the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Subcommittee on Science and Technology titled "FDA Science and Mission at Risk" identifies a number of shortfalls among the group's resources, resulting in "a food supply that grows riskier each year." The report states that the FDA's science and technology impediments fall into three broad categories:

  1. An "eroded" scientific base and organizational structure: The report claims that crisis management activities at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and Center for Veterinary Medicine have sapped resources away from its science base and infrastructure. The subcommittee concludes the result that "FDA's evaluation methods have remained largely unchanged over the last half century." 
  2. A scientific workforce that lacks "sufficient capacity and capability": The subcommittee has found that the Administration's workload has steadily grown over the last two decades, yet staffing has not kept pace, "resulting in major gaps of scientific expertise in key areas."
  3. FDA's information technology infrastructure is "inadequate."

The report concludes that the FDA's resource shortcomings have resulted in a number of issues, including "inadequate inspections of manufacturers, [and] a dearth of scientists who understand emerging new technologies." The subcommittee states that the fixes needed are so large that it will take an extended timeline to complete. Aside from restructuring, the report cites some reports of what a healthy FDA might cost:

  • $350 million for drug safety (Institute of Medicine report, "Challenges for the FDA")
  • $450 million over five years for food safety (Grocery Manufacturers/Food Products Association)
  • 15% increase in appropriations each year (Coalition for a Stronger FDA)
  • Increasing the per-American contribution to the FDA from a penny and a half per day to three cents a day

Thank you to the Fragrance Materials Association and the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association for the tip.