U.S. food safety will not be compromised by the proposed cuts in funding for inspections of meat and poultry processing facilities planned for next year, according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
In its 2015 budget proposal, the Obama administration has suggested that the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) should receive $9.3 million less than the funding it received in 2014. Under the new proposal, the federal agency responsible for the oversight and control of U.S. meat, poultry and eggs will receive just over $1 billion. Food Safety News calculated that the cut would result in 202 authorized and 60 actual positions fewer than current FSIS staffing levels. The proposal also provisions at least 148 FSIS inspectors to be dedicated full-time to Humane Methods of Slaughter Act enforcement.
Speaking to reporters in a conference call on March 4, Vilsack stated that the cut in financing would not affect food safety, which would still be a national priority. He explained that the reduction in funding will be made possible thanks to proposed new methods of inspection at poultry plants that will effectively reduce the number of foodborne diseases, Reuters reported. Figures from the UDSA show that there has been an 11-percent drop in the incidence rates of foodborne illness stemming from food products regulated by the FSIS, which was another justification for the budget cut, the agriculture secretary added.