In an interview with The Washington Post, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that food inspections have been “sharply reduced” due to the partial government shutdown ordered by President Donald Trump. The shutdown, currently in its 19th day, is the President’s response to not yet receiving Democratic approval for funding a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.
As a result of the shutdown, FDA is not conducting routine inspections of domestic food processing facilities. However, Gottlieb says he’s working on a plan to get FDA inspectors back to work as early as next week, specifically to inspect high-risk facilities that handle food items such as seafood, some cheese products, and vegetables, or facilities that have a documented history of food safety issues.
FDA is permitted to continue some work, though. Inspections have continued for foreign manufacturers, imported and domestic commodities involved in outbreaks or recalls, and anywhere the agency suspects there may be a safety-related problem.
“We are doing what we can to mitigate any risk to consumers through the shutdown,” says Gottlieb.
Based on legal guidance from the 2013 government shutdown, Gottlieb says that FDA “could not conduct regular food inspections during a funding shortfall.” But with more than 50 high-risk facility inspections being canceled, the Commissioner is asking that about 150 furloughed food inspectors be allowed back to work to focus on those facilities that pose the highest health risk to American consumers.
In a typical week, FDA conducts about 160 routine food inspections in the U.S. About one-third of those are high-risk food processing facilities.
See the entire Washington Post article.