Pew Commends Sen. Mikulski on Food Safety Funding, Grants for School Kitchen Improvements

Pew Commends Sen. Mikulski on Food Safety Funding, Grants for School Kitchen Improvements

WASHINGTON, D.C.  The Pew Charitable Trusts applauds Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) for her efforts to strengthen food safety protections under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, and provide grant funding to help school cafeterias across the nation upgrade their equipment to serve healthy, appealing meals to millions of school children. Funding for both programs was included in a larger bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

As the committee chair, Mikulski shepherded funding of $1.02 billion for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014, $12 million more than the request submitted in the Obama administration's budget. The new money will help the FDA protect millions of Americans from the dangers of foodborne illness and bolster consumer confidence in the food supply.

The legislation also includes $35 million for grants to school districts for cafeteria upgrades, such as the addition of salad bars to give students more healthy options at lunch.

"Senator Mikulski recognizes that in an increasingly global food marketplace, FDA's role in protecting consumers from foodborne illness has never been more important, and she's taking action," said Erik D. Olson, senior director of Pew's food programs. "CDC estimates that one in six Americans are sickened by foodborne illness each year, some 48 million people. And just in the past year, the CDC reported that Marylanders suffered serious outbreaks from listeria and salmonella found in fish and produce. Senator Mikulski knows that a strong FDA reinforces prevention and protects consumers and producers alike. We commend her leadership."

Olson noted that the grant program for school cafeterias is an extremely cost-effective way for schools across the country to upgrade equipment.

"The difference between serving healthy versus less-healthy school meals can come down to something as simple as improving storage for fresh vegetables and fruits," Olson said. “Senator Mikulski understands that a small investment in school equipment can return big rewards."

The bill now moves to the Senate floor for action. The House version of the bill was approved June 13 in the House Appropriations Committee, and is awaiting action on the House floor.

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