404: Food Safety Goals, Debt Ceiling Debate

Jenice Butler, Project Manager with the U.S Food and Drug Administration, outlines a partnership with ASTHO and others that advances food safety; an ASTHO blog article explains ASTHO’s plan to advance national retail food programs; Carolyn Mullen,...

Jenice Butler, Project Manager with the U.S Food and Drug Administration, outlines a partnership with ASTHO and others that advances food safety; an ASTHO blog article explains ASTHO’s plan to advance national retail food programs; Carolyn Mullen, ASTHO’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations, walks us through the federal debt ceiling debate; registration is open for ASTHO’s Public Health TechXpo and Futures Forum; ASTHO announces Google Health as a Gold Sponsor at the Public Health TechXpo and Futures Forum; and May 11th is the final day to get free rapid COVID tests.

Retail Food Safety Collaborative

Public Health Associations Band Together to Combat Foodborne Disease and Death

Public Health TechXpo and Futures Forum

Google Health: Google Cloud for State and Local Government

Time Is Running Out to Get Free Rapid Tests. Here’s How to Stock Up


ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, April 21, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



Foodborne diseases caused approximately 48 million illnesses. The annual economic burden from health losses due to foodborne illness is significantly high.



Jenice Butler is with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She's talking about a partnership with ASTHO and other public health organizations. Together, they'll work to promote adoption of the FDA's latest guidelines to prevent foodborne illnesses.


The purpose of this support system will be to leverage FDA's working relationship with nonprofit groups dedicated to advancing food safety and supporting the public health workforce.


Butler says there are six goals in the program.


And those objectives include developing a national food code adoption strategy to include the food code adoption toolkit. Next one was to improve the regulatory approach, competency, and food safety culture in the regulatory community. The third was to increase enrollment and active participation in the application of the retail program standards by state, local, tribal, and territorial retail food regulatory programs.


The project also will look to improve investigation and program promotion.


A fifth objective was improving foodborne outbreak investigation methods. Six was to increase the number of establishments that have well-developed and implemented food safety management systems. And lastly, to develop a strategy to enhance communication and better tell the story of the retail collaborative.


You can read an ASTHO news release and visit the project website using the links in the show notes.


The debate over what to do about the federal debt ceiling is heating up here in Washington. ASTHO's senior vice president of government affairs and public relations, Carolyn Mullen, is here with the latest view from Washington, D.C. report.

Congress is back in town after a two-week break and back with us to talk about it is Carolyn Mullen. Welcome.


Good morning.


Let's get right into it. What can you tell us about a proposal from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the debt ceiling?


So this proposal is the most significant piece of legislation that is going to be considered by Congress this year. Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling in order for the Treasury to pay the bills. If the debt ceiling is not raised, economic calamity ensues. And then, the Treasury Department will have to pay the bills based on when the revenue is coming in.

According to economic analysts, they think the X date, or the date by which the debt ceiling needs to be raised, could be late June, early July. So time is of the essence. This week, Speaker McCarthy went up to the New York Stock Exchange to pitch his idea to reduce our debt and deficit and raise the debt ceiling, and he produced a piece of legislation this week, which was really important.


So what is in this bill? Tell us all about it.


So this bill proposes to raise the debt ceiling just for a year through March 31, 2024. And in order to raise the debt ceiling, the Speaker is proposing a series of changes. First, he's proposing to rescind all unobligated COVID-19 funding. Second, proposing to reduce discretionary spending to fiscal year 2022 levels, which is about the equivalent of a 22% cut. Finally, the proposal has caps or limits on discretionary spending for the next 10 fiscal years, and those caps only raise by about 1% per year. And if you think about inflation being about 5-6%, it's actually a cut in discretionary spending.

You probably are wondering: what is discretionary spending? Discretionary spending is the account from which the federal government pays for things such as funding for the National Institutes of Health, for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, FDA, the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, etc. So it's really important when you think about this big picture, if the piece of the pie or the overall amount of funding available to fund our federal government gets smaller. That means that the appropriations committee is going to make very difficult trade off decisions, and it could result in a cut to public health spending overall.


So this sounds like a serious proposal. Can you tell ASTHO members what happens next?


So this proposal is the first step in negotiations. President Biden, Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader Jeffries have come out and said, "This is a no go. We are not going to support what Speaker McCarthy put together. We want a clean debt ceiling." So right now, we have Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans on one side, and then we have the Democratic leadership on the other side. And Senator McConnell has indicated that the Speaker and the President must negotiate this.

The reason why I bring up the Senate Republicans is they are very key in these negotiations, and so far they've been pretty quiet. You still need 60 votes in the Senate in order to get this done, which means any deal to raise the debt ceiling needs to be bipartisan, and Senator McConnell has indicated we will not default. So he has indicated that, "Look, there needs to be negotiations, President Biden needs to come over to McCarthy's side a little bit." But by the same token, Speaker McCarthy needs to come over to President Biden's side.

So we're watching this extremely closely to see what the final negotiation will be. This will play out over the next couple of weeks. It's going to eat up a lot of time with a lot of back and forth negotiations. So we will definitely keep our members in tune because, again, it sets those overall amount of funding levels for discretionary spending. So until this bill gets approved, Congress can't write appropriations bills to fund the federal government for the next fiscal year.


And we'll get another update from you on this next Friday.


Great, thanks so much.



Also today, learn how technology can improve your public health work at this year's ASTHO TechXpo and Futures Forum. The event is next month and it's online. You can see the agenda and sign up to attend using the link in the show notes.

Also, Google Health is a gold sponsor at the event. Google Health empowers public health organizations with AI enabled tools, data, and insights to promote health equity and accessibility. We have a link to the Google Health webpage in the show notes.


Finally this morning, time is running out to get free rapid COVID tests. The money to provide the test kits ends when the public health emergency expires May 11. ASTHO's Jessica Baggett is quoted in a story about the deadline. You can read the report by Very Well Health using the link in the show notes.


That will do it for today's newscast. We're back Monday morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great weekend.

Jenice Butler

Project Manager, FDA

Carolyn Mullen

Senior Vice President, Government Affairs & PR, ASTHO