FDA Food Safety Inspections Stopped by Government Shutdown

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Although the partial government shutdown that began on December 22 has caused the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to suspend routine food safety inspections of seafood, fruits, vegetables and other foods, due to a lapse in federal funding, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb sought to reassure stakeholders and consumers that the agency was operating to the best of its abilities. While the FDA isn't doing inspections at manufacturing plants and food processors, Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health's environmental health division isn't affected by the shutdown.

"[USDA] inspectors are still at work, checking meat, poultry & processed eggs".

During normal conditions, the FDA inspects roughly 160 United States food production facilities each week. She says the FDA does a lot less than you think it does.

Hundreds of FDA inspectors have been furloughed due to the shutdown.

"You think about the Romaine outbreak, that was actually the second one". "We're taking whatever steps we can to support our colleagues as they fulfill our commitments to the American people under challenging circumstances".

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The FDA made moves last week to ease the burden on inspectors working without pay by giving them access to the central expense account so they could travel without incurring large credit debt - because they don't know when the government will reimburse them, reports The New York Times.

The commissioner said in a series of tweets on Wednesday that the agency typically conducts about 160 routine facility inspections per week. That means this is the first week with no inspections.

"FDA's professional staff remain fully dedicated to our mission", Gottlieb said in an earlier tweet. So, as Vox's Julia Belluz puts it, the number of interrupted inspections thus represent "less than half a percent of the total inspections happening annually". Unpasteurized juices, soft cheese, and raw fish have always carried a relatively higher risk, for example, but even in normal times, that still amounts to a low chance of getting sick.

But Craig Hedberg, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, says the shutdown "shouldn't pose an imminent food-safety threat" - as long as the impasse over President Donald Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for a wall along the Mexican border gets resolved quickly. "We tend not to appreciate them until we see the fallout of these kinds of things", said Roberts.

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