Be careful before you take your next bite. FDA Commission Dr. Scott Gottlieb revealed this week that as a result of the government shutdown, the agency has been forced to halt some inspections, including some considered high risk.
F.D.A. has stopped routine food safety inspections of seafood, fruits, vegetables and many other foods because of the federal government shutdown, said F.D.A. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Wednesday. https://t.co/f1LFQPBgOz— NYT Business (@nytimesbusiness) January 10, 2019
Gottlieb noted the FDA is still conducting all of their foreign food inspections, but suggested that's not the case domestically.
THREAD: Food Safety During Shutdown: We’re 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. 31% of our inventory of domestic inspections are considered high risk— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 9, 2019
Note: We’re still doing ALL of our regular foreign food inspections. But, on the domestic side, in rough numbers we’d typically do about 160 domestic food inspections each week, and about 1/3 of those would be considered high risk.— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 9, 2019
The commissioner said he's hoping that by early next week he'll bring back about 150 furloughed inspectors. But, as he noted, that's easier said than done.
“These are people who are now furloughed and can collect unemployment insurance or take a second job,” Gottlieb said. “If we pull them in and tell them they have to work, they can’t collect. I have to make sure I’m not imposing an undue hardship.”
The FDA is responsible for inspecting about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. Health experts are beginning to outline a few potential health crises that could result from the lack of oversight.
Some public health experts were worried about the impact of the shutdown on inspection of fish. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he was concerned about contaminated shellfish ending up on store shelves during the shutdown.
In particular, he said, consumers should watch out for clams, mussels, oysters and other bivalves that may come from contaminated water. “It can be very nasty stuff,” said Dr. Rosenberg, a former official with the seafood inspection program run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It can be anything from E. coli to Vibrio. It is important for people to look for an inspection certificate.”