WASHINGTON April 18 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked Congress for more money on Thursday to address food safety, security and inspections, but said the agency is working hard to control costs and is a "true bargain" for Americans.
"We have made belt-tightening a priority," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
Among FDA's priorities are new food safety regulations, improving inspections of imported goods, and developing countermeasures against chemical and biological threats.
The FDA's proposed budget for 2014 would increase by $821 million to $4.7 billion over 2012, of which industry fees would account for $770 million, or 94 percent. The 2013 budget has not yet been finalized.
While the agency has requested more funds in certain areas, it has suggested decreased funding in others, including funding for drug and medical device programs.
Hamburg said FDA's responsibilities have expanded in the wake of new laws designed to protect Americans from food-borne illnesses, infectious diseases and radiological and nuclear threats.
"FDA is a true bargain among federal agencies," Hamburg said. "Americans each pay about $8 a year for FDA's appropriations, which is substantially less than the amount Americans spend each year on snack chips alone."
For about 2 cents a day, she said, "Americans get an extraordinary array of public health benefits."
Hamburg said one the agency's greatest challenges is to respond to the globalization of the food and drug supply chain. She noted that over the past decade the number of imported shipments of FDA-regulated products has soared.
In 2012, she said, about 28 million shipments of imported food and medical products were imported, including 50 percent of the country's fresh fruits, 20 percent of fresh vegetables, 80 percent of seafood and 40 percent of drugs.
"The world has changed and our historical regulatory approaches and tools - such as hoping to intercept products at our borders - are outdated and often inadequate," she said.
"If we are to continue to promise Americans a safe food and drug supply, FDA must continue to transform itself, from a primarily domestic agency to one that uses innovative global strategies to secure a vast global supply chain." (Reporting By Toni Clarke, editing by Ros Krasny and Doina Chiacu)