A new survey commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows significant majorities of U.S. voters in favor of providing the Food and Drug Administration with more funds to implement food safety measures and saying that they would be willing to pay more for their food to do so.
Two-thirds (66%) of those likely to vote in the next federal elections said they support the current proposal to increase the FDA's annual funding by $183 million (a 5% increase over FDA's previous-year budget) in order to support the agency's implementation of the now-in-effect Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes increased inspections of food processing facilities, stronger oversight of imported foods, and the authority to issue mandatory food recalls.
The survey also found 74% saying that they think it would be worth it to pay 1% to 3% more for food in order to pay for implementation of the new safety measures. In addition, 70% said they would favor (45% strongly favor, 25% somewhat favor) having food companies pay an average annual fee of $1,000 per processing facility to help cover the costs of the FDA's food safety activities.
Pew is a member of the Make Our Food Safe coalition (comprising public health and advocacy groups such as the American Public Health Association, the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest), and a strong advocate of the FDA funding, which is due to be debated in a key House appropriations meeting within the next several days.
However, according to Pew, the nationwide poll of 1,015 Americans identifying themselves as likely voters was conducted by a bipartisan research team: Hart Research Associates (the Democratic half of the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) and American Viewpoint (a GOP polling firm). The poll was conducted online and by mobile phone between April 28 and May 4. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.
Other findings from the survey:
*Asked how worried they are about food being contaminated with bacteria that makes it unsafe to eat, 25% said they worry "a great deal," 32% said they worry "somewhat," 30% said they "don't worry "that much," and 13% said they "don't worry at all."
*67% agreed with FDA funding supporters' contention that the funding will result in a food price increase for consumers of less than 1%, and that this price is worth paying, while 29% agreed with opponents' contention that driving up consumers' food costs is "the last thing we need in the middle of a recession when people are already struggling to make ends meet."
* 85% said they think the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that food is safe to eat, versus 11% saying the government should not be responsible (and 4% expressing uncertainty).
*When it comes to ensuring that food produced and sold in the U.S. is safe from contamination, 57% said they think that the federal government is "doing the right amount," 31% said it's doing too little, 7% said it's doing too much, and 5% expressed uncertainty.
*Asked the same question regarding food produced in other countries and sold in the U.S., 45% said the government is doing the right amount, 41% said it's doing too little, 5% said it's doing too much, and 9% expressed uncertainty.
*71% said they feel that the FDA plays a "very important" or "essential" role in protecting Americans' health and safety.
Pew also commissioned polls in the districts of House Appropriations chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Subcommittee on Agriculture Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA), and found similar levels of support for greater FDA funding and annual fees for food companies, according to Food Safety News. Kingston has publicly questioned the need for additional FDA funding, given efforts to reduce government spending.