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U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday proposed a USD 3.2 billion (EUR 2.4 billion) budget for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in fiscal 2010 - the largest ever in the agency's history and a USD 511 million (EUR 379 million) increase from fiscal 2009.

The proposed budget includes more than USD 1 billion (EUR 741,500) to improve food safety - a USD 259.3 million (EUR 192.3 million) increase from fiscal 2009.

The budget also includes USD 75 million (EUR 55.6 million) in new user fees to register food facilities and increase food inspections and USD 19 million (EUR 14.1 million) for re-inspection and export certification. The fees would allow the FDA to boost its number of food inspectors by about 20 percent in fiscal 2010, which begins 1 October. The agency currently employs 1,022 food inspectors.

"This historic increase in the FDA's budget is a great investment in public health," said Joshua Sharfstein, M.D., acting FDA commissioner.

News of the FDA's fiscal 2010 budget comes as Obama's pick to head the beleaguered FDA, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, undergoes her confirmation hearing. She pledged on Thursday to improve the safety of the nation's food supply.

"The agency is facing a range of new and daunting challenges," Hamburg told a Senate committee. "These include the globalization of food and drug production, the emergence of new and complex medical technologies and the risk of adulteration or deliberate terror attacks on our food and drug supplies."

Hamburg faced no opposition during her hearing, and the full Senate is expected to vote on her nomination by Memorial Day.

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