Friday, 22 March, 2019

FDA suspends domestic food inspections during government shutdown

GettyImages-866274648 FDA Postponing Some Food Inspections As Shutdown Drags On, Commissioner Says
Russell Knight | 11 January, 2019, 22:57

"For me to do that, it would require calling back about 10 percent of our inspection force [of roughly 5,000 inspectors]", Gottlieb said.

"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", said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. But such inspections have not been scheduled as usual due to the shutdown.

According to The Washington Post, Gottlieb said he was working on plans to bring back the 150 now furloughed inspectors as early as next week to specifically focus on high-risk facilities after the shuttering of the government forced him to cancel 50 high-risk inspections.

The FDA oversees about 80 percent of America's food supply and many overseas imports, and helps counter food-borne diseases that send about 128,000 people to the hospital each year, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The partial government shutdown has been going since December 22 with no sign of a compromise.

Late past year, an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce sickened more than 60 people. A meeting Wednesday between congressional leaders and President Donald Trump ended abruptly, with the president storming out when Democratic lawmakers refused to fund a wall at the U.S. -Mexico border.

With the shutdown now in its 19th day, more than 50 FDA inspections of high-risk facilities - which handle items like soft cheese and seafood - have been nixed so far, the Washington Post reported. Some FDA departments remain operational because they're funded by user fees. The Food and Drug Administration does about 160 routine food inspections a week but since the shutdown inspections have been sharply reduced.

It's the rotten result of hundreds of FDA inspectors having been furloughed.

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