FDA Food Inspections "Sharply Reduced" Amid Partial Government Shutdown

Gladys Abbott
January 12, 2019

As the partial government shutdown nears a third week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it's been forced to suspend routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities.

The FDA conducts about 8,400 domestic inspections a year, or an average of 160 a week, Gottlieb said.

The FDA is responsible for monitoring all food in the U.S. except meat, poultry, and eggs which are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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.

"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. Overseas inspections have continued, according to the New York Times.

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Gottlieb said the FDA's goal is to handle the most important inspections. Factors that determine whether a food is more susceptible to contamination include the type of food, how it's made, and the facility's history of violations. Work to finish rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act has also ground to a halt, impairing efforts to improve produce safety, recall communication, and outbreak tracing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which helps with tainted food outbreaks, is not affected by the partial shutdown and on Wednesday said the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce appears to be over.

"It creates an increased risk that there may be another outbreak", said Sarah Sorscher, with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"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.

The report noted that the agency inspected about 19 percent of all food facilities in 2015.

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