FDA reforms likely on back burner

Dec. 22, 2008 at 2:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. federal safety watchdog, bruised over recalls, tainted imports and food-poisoning episodes, may have to wait for reform, congressional leaders say.

"This is an issue that will have to wait its turn," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., assistant Senate majority leader, told The Baltimore Sun about plans to overhaul the Food and Drug Administration.

Higher-profile issues take precedence, leaders said. With President-elect Barack Obama ready to commit potentially more than $800 billion in an economic stimulus package, bailouts of the auto and financial industries and a huge deficit, funding for food safety may be difficult.

Instead of taking more direct control over the inspection system, the government likely will remain dependent on self-policing by growers, food processors and others in the industry, the Sun said.

Durbin and other members of Congress said they plan to push ahead with legislation to strengthen the FDA, responsible for overseeing about 80 percent of the food Americans eat. Obama has backed Durbin's efforts in the past and would continue to do so, a member of his transition team said.

"There is little question that the FDA is dysfunctional," said Rep Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who has pushed for a more sweeping overhaul of the agency. "The current structure is incapable of addressing food safety problems."

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