How the Government Shutdown Affects Food Inspections
After inspections were impacted last week, the FDA announced that they are resuming.
UPDATE 1/15/19-Food safety inspectors furloughed during the federal government shutdown will be returning to work today. They will be working without pay. This will allow the Food and Drug Administration to resume inspections, starting with some high-risk foods such as imported produce, soft cheeses, and custard-filled bakery products.
According to the New York Times, FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he hoped several hundred workers would return despite being unpaid. The F.D.A. oversees about 80 percent of the nation's food supply, as well as imports of foods shipped to the United States. Meat and poultry inspections are overseen by the Agriculture Department and its workers have continued inspections without pay.
1/11/19-Since the government shutdown began over two weeks ago, regular inspections of all domestic food-processing facilities have also been suspended, according to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
About a third of these routine inspections take place at high-risk facilities where produce, seafood, dairy products, prepared foods, infant formula, and medical foods are processed. Typical inspections aim to crack down on everything from unsanitary work environments and insect infestations to bacterial contaminations like salmonella.
Annually, the FDA performs nearly 8,400 inspections at food facilities. Of those, Gottlieb tweeted that "a few dozen" had been postponed this week in order for the agency to "put in place mechanisms to continue high risk food surveillance inspections during the shutdown;" and that they should resume next week.
In terms of how this will impact the investigations into the cause of recent recalls, like the E.Coli outbreak in romaine lettuce, the FDA had announced it is safe to consume romaine prior to the shutdown. ABC News reports that the FDA will continue to investigate the cause of the outbreak despite the shutdown because of the health risks and concerns around recalled foods.
As for the inspections of meat, poultry, and eggs, which are under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an official press release outlines that in the event of a government shutdown, the Food Safety and Inspection Service will continue working to ensure meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, prevent the movement or sale in commerce of any meat or poultry products which have been adulterated, and conduct emergency operations in connection with voluntary meat or poultry product recalls.