Shutdown slows FDA inspections, watchdogs warn of outbreak risk

The federal government shutdown, today in its third week, has forced the Food along with Drug Administration to suspend a large portion of its food safety inspections.

Safety inspections of imported food have continued at their normal pace, according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. Domestic inspections, of which the organization does about 0 per week, have slowed with about 41 percent of the organization’s 17,000 employees on furlough.

The FDA did not conduct inspections during the two weeks around the Christmas along with brand-new Year holidays, so This particular can be the first week that will some inspections might be postponed, he said.

Gottlieb said the FDA can be working to continue inspecting “high risk” inventory including seafood, cheese along with infant formula, which make up about 31 percent of all domestic inspections.

“This particular can be a departure coming from practices during past shutdowns, along with part of our continuing effort at FDA to focus our resources on areas of highest potential risk to consumers during the shutdown,” Gottlieb wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

During the 2013 shutdown, which lasted 16 days, all domestic inspections were stopped. The current shutdown has lasted 20 days.

“We’ve taken a different posture based on sound public health along with legal rationale,” Gottlieb wrote.

The biggest concern coming from advocacy groups can be that will the longer the FDA can be unable to do its regular inspections, the greater the risk of a food safety incident.

“Foodborne illness can happen with any kind of food,” Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science inside Public Interest, told CNBC.

She said items such as peanut butter along with flour, which are not typically designated as high risk, have become contaminated inside past.

“that will’s bad news for consumers,” Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America, told CNBC via email. “FDA inspections help to flag issues like listeria contamination along with rodent infestations that will prevent foodborne illness outbreaks.”

Another issue could arise if the FDA does flag a food safety problem: Some of their laboratories may not be fully staffed, leading to response delays.

Not to mention, the FDA may have trouble getting furloughed workers to return without the promise of a paycheck. The majority of food inspectors do not make a sizable income. In fact, they often make less than $40,000 a year, meaning they are often living paycheck to paycheck along with may need to subsidize their income during the shutdown in order to pay for rent along with different bills.

The slowdown in inspections does not appear to be affecting restaurant chains. Domino’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill along with Yum Brands told CNBC that will, so far, that will has not seen any impact.

Wendy’s said that will conducts its own internal audits that will exceed FDA requirements along with can be not aware of any disruptions in its supply chain.

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