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FDA Seeks More Money For Import Protection

Food and Drug Administration asked Congress for an additional $275 million, following criticism that the agency is trying to do too much with too few resources.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration on Monday night asked Congress for an additional $275 million for import protection, following a spate of criticism that the agency is trying to do too much with too few resources.

The money would hire an additional 490 people, help the agency establish a presence overseas, modernize its information technology infrastructure and conduct more food and drug inspections in foreign countries.

The strategy is to roll back the borders, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said.

In April, House lawmakers chastised the FDA for not doing more inspections of foreign drug manufacturers in the wake of a litany of problems with the blood thinner heparin and other products.

Contaminated doses of the blood thinner probably came through a Chinese plant that the FDA never inspected.

Democratic Rep. John Dingell said he is tired of hearing from FDA commissioners about conducting business in new, innovative ways in place of using additional financial resources.

Under the budget amendment, FDA would conduct at least 1,000 more foreign inspections of food and medical product facilities and an additional 1,000 domestic inspections.

One-third of all imports are products that the FDA regulates.

With the $275 million amendment, FDA's budget request for the 2009 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 is up nearly 18 percent or over $400 million from the current level, one indication of how underfunded Congress believes the agency has been.

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