Shutdown Ends Food Inspections in U.S., Leaving 90% of U.S. Seafood Imports Unchecked

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

For consumers, the federal government shutdown amounts to eating certain foods, like chicken and fish, at your own risk.


With about half of the workforce at the Food and Drug Administration on furlough, 91% of seafood imported into the United States is not being inspected, according to media reports.


Nearly 50% of fruits and 20% of vegetables imported and consumed in the U.S. also aren’t undergoing inspection.


“FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities,” reads a Health and Human Services memo detailing a contingency plan in the case of a government funding stoppage, according to the Christian Science Monitor. “FDA will also have to cease safety activities such as routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs, and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.”


Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Washington, told the Christian Science Monitor that the FDA normally inspects about 80 food processing facilities a day. This work is conducted in partnership with state agencies, which will continue their work during the federal shutdown.


But, DeWaal adds, it is unclear how long the states can continue without federal oversight and the funding that FDA provides to these agencies to cover their costs.


On Tuesday, a salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken and Foster Farms facilities sickened 278 people in 18 states, landing 42% of them in the hospital.


“This outbreak shows that it is a terrible time for government public health officials to be locked out of their offices and labs, and for government websites to go dark,” DeWaal told USA Today.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

What the U.S. Government Has to Do With Your Popcorn Shrimp (by Gwynn Guilford, The Atlantic)

Government Shutdown Halts FDA Food Inspections. Should You Worry? (by Schuyler Velasco, Christian Science Monitor)

There’s a Major Foodborne Illness Outbreak and the Government’s Shut Down (by Maryn McKenna, Wired)FDA Struggles to Crack Down on Safety of Food Imports (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)       

One-Third of Fish Sold as Food are Mislabeled…and Watch out for Sushi Bars (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

FDA Inspects Only 2% of Imported Food (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 



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