WASHINGTON The Bush administration is asking Congress for an increase of $275 million above its current budget request to enhance federal food safety programs, U.S. Health Secretary Michael Leavitt said on Monday.
The White House initially requested a Food and Drug Administration budget of $2.4 billion for the 2009 fiscal year starting in October, a 5.7 percent increase over last year's budget.
"This additional funding will allow FDA to more rapidly take the steps necessary to meet the challenges of changing global markets and to better protect the American people," Leavitt said in a conference call with reporters.
The proposal comes as the FDA faces heightened criticism for inadequate staffing, lax oversight of drug and food safety and out-of-date technology.
Leavitt said the additional funds would allow the agency to step up inspections of foreign food and medical product facilities, increase technical assistance to countries that export to the United States and to modernize the FDA's information technology systems.
FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, who was also on the conference call, said the agency would be able to expand its workforce by 490 additional staffers with the proposed $275 million budget increase.
"These are not dollars these are additional people that the FDA will be able to hire with extraordinary expertise," von Eschenbach said."
The FDA regulates products ranging from pharmaceuticals and medical devices to food and cosmetics, representing about $1 trillion, or a quarter of every dollar spent in the United States.