Ranking Member DeLauro Statement at Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the Food and Drug Administration Hearing

2023-03-29 13:25

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee delivered the following remarks at the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee's hearing on the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the Food and Drug Administration:

Thank you, Chairman Harris and Ranking Member Bishop, for holding this important hearing. And thank you, Commissioner Califf, for being here today.

I deeply believe in the mission of the FDA. You have the critical role of strengthening the health and safety of American families. You protect the food we put on our tables and the medicine that keeps us healthy. That is why, through the 2023 funding bill passed by this committee, we fight the opioid crisis, address medical supply chain issues, and strengthen unannounced inspections of foreign drug manufacturers. We included funding to better respond to food outbreaks, improve the animal food inspection system, and address heavy metals in baby food

To that extent, let me applaud the FDA for rolling out its breast density notification rule just a few weeks ago, which would require providers to notify women with dense breasts of their status and the need for further screening. I know, from my own personal experience with cancer, that when it comes to surviving cancer, early detection is key, which is why I proudly introduced the Find It Early Act to ensure that once women are notified they have dense breasts, they do not face out-of-pocket costs that may lead them to delay and forego additional screenings.

But despite the successes we have helped FDA reach, deep and enduring challenges I believe remain at the agency. A year ago, our nation was in the midst of an infant formula crisis—a crisis that I am heartbroken to say is still ongoing. Supply is still missing from shelves and the safety of the supply is still at risk. To address this in the short and long term, last year this committee led, and the House passed, $28 million in supplemental funding to address the crisis, but the funds were unfortunately never passed by the Senate or enacted into law. We are now seeing part of the impact of this void. This week, we learned that FDA once again knew about safety and contamination problems with a Reckitt infant formula product months before it was recalled last month. When the Abbott formula was recalled, it was your first day on the job as Commissioner of the FDA. But here we are, a year later, left with the same issues. It would seem that FDA has not learned its lesson and is still dragging their feet when it comes to the health and safety of our babies—those we should be working hardest to protect.

While the FDA needs strong and increased funding to achieve their goals, funding is not the only problem—I believe the issues at FDA are structural as well. For far too long, food has been treated as a second-class citizen and I was pleased to see that the FDA will finally be instituting a Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods. While I have long advocated for a single food safety agency within HHS, restructuring the FDA to include a person with relevant expertise who is solely responsible for our food supply is an important step in the right direction. But we must ensure that this “empowered” Deputy Commissioner is exactly that—fully empowered with direct oversight of the centers and offices responsible for food. We know from the resignation of the former Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Food Policy and Response that they were not fully empowered, and that is a problem. We do have a unique opportunity to meet the food safety needs of American children and families and I look forward to working together to ensure FDA finally gets it right.

Before I conclude, I just need to mention how concerned I am with some House Republican proposals to cut 2024 spending back to the 2022 level. These cuts would be detrimental, I believe, to the services Americans rely on—including the trust they put in the safety of our nation’s food supply, the oversight of our medical supply chain, and the science and research on tobacco use. They would force a reduction in foreign and domestic inspections, impair the FDA labs’ ability to find the cause of foodborne illnesses, and devastate the workforce. The American people depend on a strong FDA. And while not a perfect agency, the FDA’s programs must be fully funded to ensure the health and safety of the American people. Anything less puts lives at risk.

Again, thank you, Commissioner Califf. And thank you, kindly, Chairman Harris and Ranking Member Bishop. I yield back.

118th Congress