Another partial government shutdown side-effect has surfaced: it's halting the FDA food inspections.
American citizens rely on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to thoroughly check their food before it goes on shelves, but due to the partial government shutdown, routine inspections are not being done.
Normally, there are roughly 160 routine food inspections completed per week, but currently, all routine inspections at food facilities have been paused.
Scott Gottlieb with the FDA tweeted a thread informing the public about how the shutdown is affecting the inspections. Here are a couple.
Note: We’re still doing ALL of our regular foreign food inspections. But, on the domestic side, in rough numbers we’d typically do about 160 domestic food inspections each week, and about 1/3 of those would be considered high risk.— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 9, 2019
THREAD: Food Safety During Shutdown: We’re taking steps to expand the scope of food safety surveillance inspections we’re doing during the shutdown to make sure we continue inspecting high risk food facilities. 31% of our inventory of domestic inspections are considered high risk— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 9, 2019
According to a report by CBS This Morning, the FDA regulates 75 percent of the U.S. food supply. Without the inspections, the food is possibly dangerous to consume and could sicken a bunch of people. No one has reported falling ill (luckily), and we hope this continues. Some of the items that are considered high-risk include baby formula, seafood, cheese, and produce (seems like it's a lot of the essentials!).
The FDA is still performing foreign routine food inspection at ports, so the food that is coming in from a foreign source is still considered safe. As well as foreign food inspections, they are still performing inspections for E-coli, unsanitary conditions, infections, and salmonella -- that is extremely important. The routine inspections of meat, poultry, and eggs will also continue so it's safe to consume these products without any worry. The FDA is also still dealing with food recalls, like the romaine lettuce that was recalled last year, and any outbreaks.
How it's affecting FDA workers
At the moment, 41 percent of FDA employees are currently furloughed, which could lead to both personal and large-scale consequences. Many workers already work paycheck to paycheck, and the furlough could only drive them into debt -- Some of these employees are being forced to work without pay, too, which could affect their performance levels or their desire to even report to work.
According to a report by The Denver Channel, FDA workers are funded by carryover user fees, and they fluctuate, possibly resulting in even more employees being furloughed. The FDA is working hard to bring 150 employees back to continue routine inspections, but it would mean that they would be forced to work without pay.
In case of an emergency, like an outbreak, all staff would be brought back in to solve the issue, but only for the duration of the process.
Do you work for the FDA? What are your concerns regarding the lack of food inspections? Let us know in the comments below.
TSA employees are also working without pay right now. The agency is recommending flyers plan for long security lines, as a result. Read more here!