How the government shutdown is impacting food inspections

12 January, 2019, 02:57 | Author: Brooke Harris
  • Scott Gottlieb. MUST CREDIT Bloomberg

"The shutdown hit day 19 [on 9 January], as White House negotiators and Democratic leaders continue to dig their heels in over President Trump's demand for more than $5 billion in border wall funding".

Gottlieb is trying to bring back about 150 inspectors as soon as possible, hopefully next week, to inspect high-risk facilities, such as those that process soft cheese and seafood or make infant formula, or those that may have had issues with food safety in the past. That led to far fewer federal inspections on domestic food. The outbreak appears to be over, and the FDA's investigation into it is ongoing. The Food and Drug Administration does about 160 routine food inspections a week but since the shutdown inspections have been sharply reduced. In a statement, the agency said it will continue operations as permitted by law.

One sign of FDA enforcement are the warning letters sent if problems are found during inspections.

"Our work protects the food that families feed their children and pets and ensures the effectiveness of the medicine they need, all of which contribute to improving the health and welfare of Americans", it said. That's according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who revealed the news in an interview with the Washington Post published Wednesday.

"We are still performing those inspections and do routine sampling in both processors and retail establishments", said Heather Lansdowne with the Kansas State Department of Agriculture.

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"It's not business as usual, and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances".

Gottlieb said that the agency, which oversees about 80 percent of the food supply, is continuing to surveil foreign manufacturers and imported food, as well as any domestic producers involved in a current recall or outbreak.

"We are doing what we can to mitigate any risk to consumers through the shutdown", says Gottlieb.

Furloughed workers can start applying for unemployment benefits, or search for another job - things they cannot do if they're called back to work.

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