Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Shutdown has stopped most US food inspections, FDA chief says

Shutdown has stopped most US food inspections, FDA chief says

He's now working on a plan to call back 150 inspectors to focus on the high-risk facilities.

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

The U.S. government isn't doing routine food inspections because of the partial federal shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week.

The shutdown has stretched deep into its third week and is on track to become the longest since the 1970s if the government doesn't reopen by Saturday.

The FDA inspects about 80 percent of the US food supply.

Gottlieb tweeted Monday that, under normal circumstances, "we'd typically do about 160 domestic food inspections each week, and about 1/3 of those would be considered high risk". It comes as the agency continues to deal with an absent workforce, thanks to the government shutdown.

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Other consumer advocacy groups have argued that postponing the FDA inspections will put the American food supply at risk.

Its inspectors are among more than 800,000 federal employees affected by the shutdown - the result of an impasse between President Trump and congressional Democrats over funding for the US-Mexico border wall. That's according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who revealed the news in an interview with the Washington Post published Wednesday.

Despite the shutdown, the FDA said it's still conducting foreign food inspections, inspections at ports, and is dealing with recalls and outbreaks.

From lettuce, to cereal and even ice cream - the FDA commissioner sent some stern tweets about potential candidates in food.

"We are still performing those inspections and do routine sampling in both processors and retail establishments", said Heather Lansdowne with the Kansas State Department of Agriculture.

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