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WASHINGTON -- With the spinach category still reeling from food-borne illness outbreaks, the calls are welling up here for fortifying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Cal Dooley, president and c.e.o. of Food Products Association here and c.e.o.-elect of the Grocery Manufacturers Association/FPA, joined former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson in announcing the formation of a broad-based coalition to advocate for a renewed public commitment to the agency. (Story continues below.)
"The safety and security of the food supply is the No. 1 operating principle of the food industry," said Dooley. "It is in the best interest of the public, food companies, and policymakers in Washington and around the country that FDA remains strong and can carry out its food safety mandate, as well as meet new challenges and emerging trends."
Dooley and Thompson were joined by other coalition members to announce the creation of the Coalition for a Stronger FDA (www.fdacoalition.org), which aims to build public support and work with the Congress and the Bush Administration to ensure the FDA has sufficient resources to protect patients and consumers and maintain public confidence and trust in the FDA. The broad-based coalition consists of patient groups, consumer advocates, and public health organizations, and has the support of Thompson as well as former HHS secretaries Donna E. Shalala and Louis Sullivan.
"Since its inception, the food industry has worked cooperatively with the FDA, the world's leading food safety agency, to ensure the safety of our food supply and protect public health, and we believe that FDA's continued effectiveness is linked to sound public policy and adequate funding in the years ahead," said Dooley.
The Consumer Federation of America is among the organizations that have signed on with the coalition. "Funding for the FDA has been gradually eroded over the past several years, and the cracks are starting to show," said Chris Waldrop, deputy director of CFA's Food Policy Institute.
FDA's former chief counsel in the 1970s, Peter Barton Hutt, was quoted in USA Today as saying that FDA's primary challenge is a budget that’s been "flat-lined for the last 10 years. We are strangling the agency to death. The problem is not the lack of ability in the agency. We ought to take a very, very close look at how much money we are spending."