Science for the Public Interest: Watch What You Eat during Shutdown

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October 9, 2013;

On Tuesday, a salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken and Foster Farms facilities sickened 278 people in 18 states, landing 42 percent of them in the hospital, highlighting the need for food inspections. But one of the results of the government shutdown is that with half the staff at the Food and Drug Administration on furlough, 91 percent of seafood, almost 50 percent of fruits and 20 percent of vegetables imported into the U.S. also aren’t undergoing inspection.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, a Health and Human Services memo had warned that the “FDA will…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 generally the FDA in combination with states inspects approximately 80 food processing facilities each day

DeWaal adds that the FDA provides oversight and funding to state agencies involved in inspections, and it is unclear how long they can function without federal involvement.—Ruth McCambridge