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FDA requests budget increase to implement food safety law

(Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday it is requesting a budget of $4.7 billion in fiscal 2014, including $295.8 million to implement new food safety regulations.

The proposed budget represents an increase over the $4.03 billion included in the 2013 budget after automatic spending cuts mandated by Congress, known as the sequester.

The FDA is financed in part with funds authorized by Congress and in part by fees charged to industry to cover the cost of reviewing and approving new drugs.

The agency's commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, said in a statement that the request reflects "tight budget times" and said 94 percent of the proposed increase will come from new fees to support the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and strengthen the FDA's ability to oversee imported food.

Under the new law, the FDA for the first time will be allowed to penalize U.S. companies that fail to monitor produce they import from abroad, an extra layer of protection for inspectors whose resources are stretched thin.

The FSMA was signed into law in January 2011 and represents the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years. It is designed to move the FDA into preventive mode, instead of its traditional reactive mode of taking action after an outbreak of food-borne illnesses.

(Reporting By Toni Clarke in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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