US Senate and House nearly aligned on 2024 Food and Drug Administration funding

US Senate and House are close on 2024 FDA funding

The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are considering nearly identical figures for  funding for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2024, but both proposals fall far short of U.S. President Joe Biden’s budget request.

Although Biden originally asked for USD 3.9 billion (EUR 3.6 billion) for the federal agency charged with food safety, the debt ceiling budget deal agreed to by Congress in June hampers any effort to increase non-defense spending, such as funding for the FDA. 

According to the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, an advocacy group that advocates for higher levels of FDA funding, the debt deal limits congressional budget decisions but “do not determine micro-budgetary decisions” such as how much money will be allocated to the FDA.

“It is now clear that the debt limit deal narrowed the FY24 budget debate but in no way resolved it,” Alliance for a Stronger FDA Executive Director Steven Grossman wrote in a blog post. “There are fundamental spending issues that are still in play and will be difficult for Congress to decide.”

In June, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved USD 3.55 billion (EUR 3.25 billion) for the FDA, around USD 360 million (EUR 330 million) below Biden's budget request. The Senate’s FDA spending is just USD 20 million (EUR 18 million) above the House legislation, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee in May. According to the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, the majority of that difference – USD 12.8 million (EUR 11.7 million) – is for facilities.

In announcing the Senate’s proposed USD 26 billion (EUR 24 billion) agriculture spending bill, Appropriations Committee Chair U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) said the funding provided for the FDA would enable it to meet its mission.

“This bill also recognizes the direct connection between FDA having the resources it needs and the health and safety of American families,” Murray said in a statement. “Every time families back in Washington state go to the grocery store, fill a prescription, or rely on a medical device, they’re really putting their trust in FDA and their experts to uphold the gold standard of safety and effectiveness. This legislation will help ensure FDA can meet its mission on behalf of the American people and will for the first time ever fund FDA’s new ability to regulate cosmetics and protect consumers.”

Among other seafood-related provisions, both the House and Senate reports on the bills claim they direct the FDA to provide greater clarity on how producers should label plant-based and vegan seafood alternatives.

“The committee continues to hear concerns with the labeling of certain foods as a fish or seafood product when the products are highly-processed plant-based foods rather than derived from actual fish or seafood, and the labeling of these products are misleading, deceptive, and confusing to consumers,” the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee's report on the bill said. “The committee is concerned the terms 'plant-based' and 'vegan' exempt the producer from describing the actual plant source as part of the product name, in opposition to other FDA guidance.”

The committee wants the FDA to provide similar guidance to that it gave the plant-based milk industry.

The Senate version also includes a provision requiring the FDA to update its seafood consumption suggestions for pregnant women and young children by September 2024. The FDA is in the midst of a government-wide effort to update that advice as part of the agency’s Closer to Zero Action Plan to reduce the exposure of babies and young children to mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium. The agency has commissioned an independent study and plans to hire a contractor to survey mercury levels in seafood.

Now out of committee, both the House and Senate bills will need to be passed by their respective chambers. Any differences between the bills after that will need to be resolved in conference.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Antonina Vlasova


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