Routine food inspections halted by government shutdown | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Routine food inspections halted by government shutdown

622208_web1_AP19009790372276
The Food and Drug Administration building behind FDA logos at a bus stop on the agency’s campus in Silver Spring, Md. 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.

NEW YORK — Routine food inspections aren’t getting done because of the partial government shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The agency said it’s working to bring back about 150 employees to inspect riskier foods such as cheese, infant formula and produce. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency can’t make the case that “a routine inspection of a Nabisco cracker facility” is necessary during the shutdown, however.

Gottlieb said inspections would have ramped up this week for the first time since the holidays, so the lapse in inspections of high-risk foods will not be significant if they resume soon. He said his concern would grow if those inspections were halted for several weeks.

The FDA conducts about 8,400 inspections a year, or an average of 160 a week, Gottlieb said. He said high-risk foods account for about a third of the food covered by the agency’s domestic inspections. Factors that determine whether a food is more susceptible to contamination include the type of food, how it’s made, and the facility’s history of violations.

The FDA oversees about three-quarters of the food supply, including packaged foods and produce. The agency said all imported foods will continue to be inspected and that critical functions, such as monitoring for food poisoning outbreaks, remain up and running.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which helps with tainted food outbreaks, is not affected by the partial shutdown and on Wednesday said the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce appears to be over. The FDA said its investigation into that outbreak will also continue.

The Department of Agriculture, which handles meat and poultry inspections, says 89 percent of its food safety employees are still working. Restaurants are overseen by local health agencies.

Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the FDA’s short-term lapse in routine food inspections isn’t a cause for worry, but will be if the shutdown continues.

“That’s more and more issues they’re potentially not catching,” she said.

She said a long shutdown could hinder the FDA’s work on implementing new food safety standards.

In 2017, a government report noted the number of facilities the FDA inspects has declined, and that it did not always take effective action to ensure violations were corrected. The report noted that the agency inspected 16,000 facilities in 2015. That meant he agency inspected about 19 percent of all food facilities that year.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.