We learn from the Wall Street Journal today that President Obama's proposed budget will include over $250 million dollars in new FDA fees, paid by food and drug makers, that would help cover the cost of a variety of FDA activities, including food inspections.
Dealing only with the food part of this (drug regulation, while important, isn't really our shtick here), this appears to be a good thing. Food inspections are underfunded and, as a result, often unable to detect contamination early enough or at all. Just look at the history of food-borne illness in this country over the last decade. In these tough times for the federal budget (the proposed freeze on discretionary funding over the next few years), this would mean that FDA funding would be secure, and would fall on the shoulders of an industry that has for too long tried to minimize the role and authority of our nation's primary food safety watchdog.
Please note that this funding depends upon congressional action, specifically on the Senate moving forward on S. 510, the companion bill to one passed in the House last year that would authorize the fees.
More FDA funding for inspections means safer food and a more accountable industry. Safer food and increased accountability mean that when we go to the store we can be confident that we're getting what we think we are, and that it won't make us sick. And that is unequivocally a good thing.