Govt. Shutdown Sharply Reduces FDA Food Inspections

January 10, 2019 - 7:55 am
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(CBS News)- The U.S. food supply might be at risk because of the partial government shutdown. The Food and Drug Administration does about 160 routine food inspections a week but since the shutdown inspections have been sharply reduced.

The FDA said it is working to bring back about 150 employees to restart inspections of high-risk facilities as early as next week, but inspections of routine facilities are at a standstill. The FDA regulates about 75 percent of the U.S. food supply.

Roughly 31 percent of the food they deal with is considered to be "high-risk" and includes baby formula, seafood, cheese and produce. FDA inspectors look for issues at processing facilities like unsanitary conditions and infestations and also inspect food for salmonella and E. coli contamination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people in the U.S. get sick each year from food-borne diseases and about 3,000 of those people die. 

Late last year, an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce sickened more than 60 people. The outbreak appears to be over, and the FDA's investigation into it is ongoing.

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

The Department of Agriculture said its inspections of meat, poultry, and eggs will also continue.