More import inspections won’t be cheap

Dan Grech Apr 24, 2008
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More import inspections won’t be cheap

Dan Grech Apr 24, 2008
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KAI RYSSDAL: The CEO of Baxter International said today the drug company might stop selling the popular blood-thinning drug Heparin in the U.S. market. The drug was recalled recently after it was linked to potentially fatal allergic reactions. It’s another version of the tainted products from China story. The Food and Drug Administration is investigating Baxter’s China-based suppliers to see if they intentionally contaminated the drug to increase profits.

Product recalls over the past year, from pet food to toys, have prompted calls for tighter import inspections. Today the House considred a new proposal that would charge food and drug producers hundreds of millions of dollars to improve product safety. Marketplace’s Dan Grech has more.


DAN GRECH: The FDA doesn’t have the funding to inspect the vast majority of food and drugs imported from foreign countries like China. Congress wants to change that.

Democratic Congressman John Dingell is pushing to more than double the FDA’s food safety budget. To hire more inspectors, the agency would charge food producers a $2,000 fee. Former FDA attorney Benjamin England represents clients in the food, drug and medical-device industries.

BENJAMIN ENGLAND: Companies are already struggling with making ends meet. And then companies would have to pay the government in order to come and regulate them.

Most people agree the FDA needs more inspectors. But should the industry pay for it, or taxpayers?

WILLIAM HUBBARD: It’ll either have to be appropriations or user fees. And you know, appropriations are hard to get these days and user fees have their own problems.

That’s William Hubbard, a former FDA deputy commissioner. He says Congress has a bad habit of lowering appropriations shortly after it imposes user fees. After prescription drug user fees were passed in 1992, money destined for food safety inspections was cut back.

Hubbard says appropriations are the better option.

HUBBARD: We as consumers and taxpayers only pay a penny and half a day for the FDA. And I think if you polled most Americans, they would say that 2 or 3 cents a day would not be too much to have safe foods and drugs.

Powerful industry lobbies including local port authorities, seafood importers and drugmakers have started lining up against the proposed fees.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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