Routine food inspections halted by US government shutdown

Pittsburgh Post Gazette via AP  File		A woman shopped for lettuce in Pittsburgh in 2018

Pittsburgh Post Gazette via AP File A woman shopped for lettuce in Pittsburgh in 2018

As you probably recall, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is part of the US federal government.

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 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.

The FDA conducts about 8,400 domestic inspections a year, or an average of 160 a week, Gottlieb said. The FDA regulates about 75 percent of the USA food supply.

The FDA oversees about three-quarters of the food supply, including packaged foods and produce.

Additionally local grocery store representatives told KAKE News Anchor Greg Miller that food companies also perform their own inspections and tests or hire third-party companies to do so, in order to maintain quality standards. Sampling of some foods such as frozen berries for contamination has also continued, Gottlieb said.

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The Agriculture Department is still inspecting meat and poultry plants in this country, but those inspectors are not being paid for their work.

Just past year, the agency and the CDC helped pinpoint an outbreak of to romaine lettuce and track breakfast cereal that sickened some people with salmonella.

"While the FDA claims that it will continue to conduct "for cause" inspections and pursue criminal and civil investigations related to "imminent threats to human health or life", the agency has posted no new warning letters since the shutdown began more than two weeks ago".

"Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital", said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs of the nonprofit advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The agency pays for medical manufacturing and food safety inspections out of its own budget.

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