FDA Is So Underfunded It Can't Protect Consumers

Today, an advisory panel to the FDA will present its findings developed over the past year. The result is “a scathing review of the state of the FDA” that says it’s “so underfunded and understaffed that it’s putting U.S. consumers at risk in terms of food and drug safety.”

The report describes what it calls a “plethora of inadequacies,” including:

  • inadequate inspections of manufacturers, noting that foodmakers, for example, are inspected about once every 10 years.
  • A “badly broken” food-import system and food supply “that grows riskier each year.”
  • A depleted FDA staff, which is about the same size as it was 15 years ago despite huge growth in agency responsibilities.
  • A workforce with a “dearth” of scientists who understand emerging technologies.
  • An “obsolete” information-technology system, with handwritten inspectors’ reports and “piles and piles” of paper documents that are in warehouses with no backup, including clinical trial data.

The panel says the problem stems from “chronic underfunding” of the FDA, even though its responsibilities continue to expand—for example, it now regulates 80% of the nation’s food supply, but only receives about a third of our food-safety budget. (The rest goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

“These people were horrified by what they found,” [said William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner]. While the subcommittee was supposed to look ahead to where the FDA needs to be, Hubbard says it came away concluding that “it cannot even do its job now.”

“Report: FDA so underfunded, consumers are put at risk” [USA Today]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. headon says:

    You mean to tell me that a government agency can’t do it’s job. I’m shocked.

    It would be a great exclusive for the Consumerist if you could find a Gov’t agency that DOES do it’s job!

  2. Jeff_McAwesome says:

    What a suprise, a government agency asking for more money! If only we could triple their budget, then we would be safe.

  3. Half Beast says:

    Serisouly, they should just add some of those Paypal donation buttons to assorted gov’t websites. I feel like I should just give ’em a hundred bucks so they can buy a task chair and some filing cabinets. Good Lord.

  4. Trai_Dep says:

    What a shock! Ideologues and special interests strangle an agency performing a vital public service to the point of making it a eunich. Then the wackos emerge saying, “See, this PROVES that government agencies can’t work.”

    If only there were a way to shunt poisoned, ineffective or tainted products on the basis of ideology. I’d have no problems with unsafe food and drugs being “passed” if only it was the children of the ones yammering about regulations being unneeded were the sole victims.

  5. Trai_Dep says:

    @headon: err, FAA, SS, Medi-care, you local fire department…

  6. BigNutty says:

    It’s much more important to fund wars we can’t win, pork politics, and whatever the lobbyists are pushing.

    I wonder if a smart business person will ever make it to Washington?

  7. Half Beast says:

    @trai_dep: Oh, come on. Let’s all grab an imported beer, sit back and let the free market economy work…

    …or kill us all with Listeria.

  8. Adam Hyland says:


    FDA study finds that FDA doesn’t have enough money.

  9. bohemian says:

    This is the same agency that a few years ago told everyone to not buy drugs from Canada because they were dangerous.

    Just remember who has neutered these agencies into what they are over the last oh about 7+ going on 8 years. Welcome to the free market economy.

  10. darkened says:

    This is an organization we need to be kept safe from. The FDA needs to be axed or atleast greatly weakened.

  11. Robert Synnott says:

    “I wonder if a smart business person will ever make it to Washington?” – Wouldn’t those be the lobbyists who cripple essential Government services in the first place?

    “This is an organization we need to be kept safe from. The FDA needs to be axed or atleast greatly weakened.” – I assume you grow all your own food, or something, then?

    Really, I can’t see how anyone can argue that the FDA shouldn’t get all the money it needs to do its (very important) job properly…

  12. headon says:

    @Trai_dep: FAA still analog, SS hmmm if we still have it in a few years, Medicare ya thats working real well, If you consider fraud, overpayment to suppliers, underpayment to doctors working well. Our local Fire Department is Volunteer.
    I’ll wait while you try to name some other examples.

  13. Half Beast says:

    @headon: Hey, I’ve heard the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is kickin’ ass…

  14. mconfoy says:

    @trai_dep: correct, no surprise.

    @bohemian: Well by dragging the dollar into the toliet, the Bush administration took care of that.

  15. Chaosium says:

    @trai_dep: Sadly, these same “FREE MARKET” jerks also promote homeopathy, anti-vaccination and I’ve even seen “fluoride is mind control poison” loony-libertarians starting to creep up in number on internet discussion sites.

    Hint: Once the FDA is “abolished”, the worst lobbyists for “Big PHARM” are going to be the ones running the asylum, er I mean the new “certification bodies”.

    Consumers are not rational actors, in the absence of oversight bodies and “government endorsement”, abuses against the consumer will increase exponentially, and lastly “reputation” in the absence of all oversight (and lawsuits) are easily manipulated for corporate benefit.

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    @bohemian: You mean that the Republican Congressional Leadership insisted that the FDA cite Canadian drugs as dangerous, on behest of their Big Pharma overlords? After burdening our economy with the reckless, wasteful Medi-Care Prescription “benefit”? Yup, they sure did.

  17. galeninjapan says:

    I think it’s funny you guys are complaining about free market. The FDA is the exact opposite of the free market. having a government agency regulate any aspect is not a “free market”I think it’s funny you guys are complaining about free market. The FDA is the exact opposite of the free market. having a government agency regulate any aspect is not a “free market”

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    Patents, lobbyists crafting laws to benefit them over others, collusion, barriers to entry for doctors and a well-neigh-infinite number of “unnatural” influences assure that there IS no free market in the sense that the Ann Ryndians & Paultards profess. And there’s FAR too much money on the table to expect anything different. Or that there was EVER a free market.

    Free Market ideologues are precisely the same as Communists: great in the abstract, completely, fundamentally unattainable in the real world.

    The market IS unmatched for certain things. But not all of them, and not unrestricted. Any rational adult would see it this way.

  19. crankybureaucrat says:

    Dude, as a federal employee (in the USDA) this is totally the norm right now. Congress distributes the money based on whatever initiatives the President mandates. There is a huge workforce reduction/centralization process that is mucking up day-to-day activities–like actually inspecting anything or managing land.

  20. Rusted says:

    @galeninjapan: No, it’s still free. It’s just that what they are selling had better be safe. Well, in a more perfect world.