The Food and Drug Administration, which inspects everything but meat and poultry, is struggling to find the money to inspect foreign foods under a new food safety law that Congress did not support with enough funds. The Obama administration’s 2014 budget calls for an increase in agency financing, but the most money would come from fees that the food industry and Congress oppose. Lawmakers in March did approve an additional $40 million in one-time financing for the agency to put the new law into effect, but food safety experts say more money will be needed.
The upheavals in government food inspections are occurring as Americans are biting into more and more foreign food and the rate of illness from imported food is rising. Just last month, a salmonella outbreak was traced to Mexican cucumbers that sickened at least 73 people in 19 states. In just the past two years, major food poisoningoutbreaks from salmonella bacteria have been linked to imported foods, including Turkish pine nuts, Mexican papayas and cantaloupes from Guatemala. Last year, 2.5 million pounds of contaminated beef from Canada made it into American supermarkets before additional shipments were caught at the border.