The US government is planning to give the Food and Drug Administration an extra $275 million to help the agency shore up the agency’s safety work.

US Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has announced that the Bush Administration is amending its budget request for fiscal year 2009 to include the extra cash and he called on Congress to act quickly and get the amendment through. He added that the increase brings the total proposed increase in the FDA's budget to $404.7 million, up 17.8% on last year.

Mr Leavitt said the US government is “moving from an intervention strategy – where we stand at the border and try to catch things that are unsafe – to an integrated strategy of prevention with verification”. He added that “we are rolling the borders back and seeking to build safety and quality into products at every step of the way before they reach American consumers”.

Of the $275 million, $125 million will be spent on “protecting America’s food supply”, while the rest will go on the drugs side of the agency’s work. Specifically, the FDA says the money will help it “significantly expand its reach beyond American borders by establishing a presence in five countries or region's" and by implementing other measures that will help ensure greater foreign compliance with FDA standards.

The cash will also allow the agency to implement another initiative which will offer “expedited entry for goods bearing certification by trusted parties”. The FDA will also be able to modernise its IT infrastructure and conduct at least “1,000 more foreign inspections of food and medical product facilities and an additional 1,000 domestic inspections”.

Andrew von Eschenbach, the agency’s commissioner, said it has already embarked on an ambitious programme to transform itself and “this added funding will ensure that the FDA can move ahead with these proposals more rapidly”.