Routine food inspections halted by government shutdown

Roman Schwartz
January 12, 2019

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The U.S. food supply might be at risk because of the partial government shutdown.

"While food inspections of most of these facilities have halted due to the funding shortfall caused by the shutdown, Gottlieb says he is seeking to bring back enough workers to investigate high-risk facilities, which deal with sensitive foods such as seafood and cheese". About 40% of the FDA's staff is furloughed.

"We're taking steps to expand the scope of food safety surveillance inspections we're doing during the shutdown".

The FDA inspects about 80 percent of the USA food supply.

The shutdown has stretched deep into its third week and is on track to become the longest since the 1970s if the government doesn't reopen by Saturday.

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Late past year, an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce sickened more than 60 people. The shutdown, now in its 19th day, is the President's response to not yet receiving Democratic approval for funding a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

But that increase will still only cover about one-third of the normal domestic food inspections.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) said the president abruptly walked out of a White House meeting to discuss ending the shutdown, saying Trump threw a "temper tantrum because he couldn't get his way". "I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

"The functions that can most directly impact consumer safety will continue, to the best of our abilities, subject to the legal and financial limitations of the current circumstances", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a tweet Tuesday.

"I think most people agree these inspections are important". The FDA has oversight over 80% of the food supply in this country. "The idea that a couple weeks of no routine food inspections puts us all in danger is probably a bit of a stretch".

Unlike the U.S. Department of Agriculture's slaughterhouse inspectors, who are still on the job unpaid, the FDA performs spot checks in domestic processing facilities, focusing on those with higher risks; they are not keeping watch around-the-clock.

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