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Future of FDA in doubt

The FDA has both friends and foes on Capitol Hill as the agency undergoes scrutiny as part of the budget writing and regulatory reform process. Conservatives frequently cite FDA and its administrator, Dr.

David Kessler, as prime examples of what's wrong with federal regulation. They have called for major reform of the agency, ranging from budget cuts to privatizing some functions. Some favor legislative changes. But Republican Congressmen who head House subcommittees with oversight over the agency appear to be taking a more thoughtful approach. Rep. Joe Skeen (R-NM), chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee, said GOP leaders will not just run over the agency. He predicted some funding cuts, but indicated they would be in proportion to cuts for other agencies under his subcommittee's jursidiction. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), House Commerce oversight subcommittee chairman, said FDA legislation might not be necessary. His panel is investigating FDA policies and operations and plans to issue reports that may be used as the basis for any legislation, if it's deemed necessary. If it comes, it would be sometime this fall. Meanwhile, the food industry is unhappy with the inclusion in the House FY 96 budget of user fees to fund FDA regulatory activities. NFPA complained to House Budget Chairman Rep. John Kasich (R-OH), saying such fees are unlikely to increase FDA's resources. They either will displace appropriated funds or be used to set up the bureaucracy, said NFPA President John Cady. The food industry has long argued-and Congress so far has agreed-that ensuring the safety of the food supply is a fundamental government function that should be supported by tax dollars.

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