By Abbie Cornett
Unless you've been stranded on a desert Island, you have probably heard the federal government has been shut down for the longest period in history. And, you may wonder how this affects those who don't work for the government.
One consequence of the shutdown that hasn't been getting much attention is the effect on food safety. Because of the furloughs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for inspecting 80 percent of produce, has had to sharply reduce inspections of the nation's food supply — potentially making the food Americans consume less safe.
High-risk foods like meat and chicken are still being inspected because those processing facilities are not allowed to legally operate without an inspector on premise.1 But, inspections for other foods such as fruit, vegetables, cheese, dairy and imported foods, to name a few, were suspended until Jan. 14, when it was announced by Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of FDA, that inspections would resume for those products deemed high risk. According to Gottlieb, FDA is "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." High-risk foods include seafood, custard-filled bakery products, cheeses, nonpasteurized juices, fruits and vegetables, shell eggs, infant formula and medical foods, among others.2
Unfortunately, though, that may not be enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates foodborne illnesses are a major problem in the United States, sickening 48 million people each year and killing 3,000.
This is a serious concern for the chronically ill who are at a high risk of foodborne illnesses because of their weakened immune systems.
1 Maldonado, C. Should You Be Concerned About Food safety During the Government Shutdown? KTNV Las Vegas, Jan. 13, 2019. Accessed at www.ktnv.com/news/should-you-be-concerned-about-food-safety-during-government-shutdown.
2 Trimble, M. FDA Looks to Restart Inspections for High-Risk Foods. U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 10, 2019. Accessed at www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2019-01-10/fda-looks-to-restart-inspections-for-riskier-foods-in-government-shutdown.