In this file:


·         FDA Calls Inspectors Back Amid Government Shutdown

·         With inspectors furloughed, reduced FDA inspections ‘put our food supply at risk’

·         From the farm bill to grocery bills, the government shutdown is affecting how America eats



FDA Calls Inspectors Back Amid Government Shutdown


By Pan Demetrakakes, Food Processing

Jan 09, 2019


The FDA is calling some food safety inspectors back to work, even though they can’t be paid due to the government shutdown, according to an NBC News report.


About 41% of the FDA’s workforce, including most of its inspectors, has been furloughed due to the budget impasse between President Trump and the House of Representatives.


Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s director, was quoted as saying that he intends to call inspectors back to work on what amounts to a triage basis. First to see resumed inspections would be plants that have experienced contamination or other safety issues. Next would be facilities that handle foods with high water activity or other risk factors.


Gottlieb said he is trying to take steps to...





With inspectors furloughed, reduced FDA inspections ‘put our food supply at risk’


By Laurie McGinley and Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post

January 9, 2019


The furloughing of hundreds of Food and Drug Administration inspectors has sharply reduced inspections of the nation’s food supply — one of many repercussions of the partial government shutdown that make Americans potentially less safe.


The agency, which oversees 80 percent of the food supply, has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview. He said he’s working on a plan to bring back inspectors as early as next week to resume inspections of high-risk facilities, which handle foods such as soft cheese or seafood, or have a history of problems.


“We are doing what we can to mitigate any risk to consumers through the shutdown,” Gottlieb said.


The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group, described the reductions as unacceptable.


“That puts our food supply at risk,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the group. “Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital.”


Foodborne illness is a major problem in the United States, sickening 48 million people each year and killing 3,000, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Food inspections are just one of many public health and safety efforts that have been stopped or curtailed during the shutdown, now deep into its third week.


Much of what the federal government does involves risk management: It keeps airplanes from colliding, inspects food and drugs, pursues criminals and defends against possible terrorist and cyberattacks. It’s a 24-7-365 effort to make Americans safer.


But a shutdown upends the calculus of risk management as agencies including the FBI, Coast Guard, Secret Service, FDA, Federal Aviation Administration and Agriculture Department face drastically reduced resources.


“You can’t shut down the United States government at this magnitude and expect that everything’s going to be hunky-dory,” said Bruce McIndoe, founder and president of WorldAware, a risk management firm with corporate clients around the globe. “You’re going to see a much higher risk of a failure in the system.”


Every federal agency has to make a judgment call about what to go without. Who’s essential? Who’s not? This is not simply about people, but about functions. The government has operational mandates.


Some of the results are clearly visible, as in the much-publicized cases of trash piling up in national parks. But there are subtler and more significant effects involving government functions that are unseen by most Americans but have far greater effects.


The FDA, for example, typically conducts about 160 routine food inspections a week in the United States, with about a third involving high-risk processing facilities, Gottlieb said.


He said that 2013 legal guidance said the agency couldn’t do regular food inspections during a funding shortfall. But after canceling more than 50 high-risk inspections, he said he has obtained new guidance that he believes will allow him to call back about 150 furloughed inspectors to focus on high-risk facilities.


In the meantime, the agency is continuing to inspect foreign manufacturers, imports and domestic producers involved in recalls or outbreaks, or where inspectors suspect there may be a problem.


Normally, the agency’s inspectors look for...


more, including links



From the farm bill to grocery bills, the government shutdown is affecting how America eats

Stories from a shutdown—from food safety and hog nuisance lawsuits to EBT payments and "shutdown specials" at D.C. restaurants.


by New Food Economy         

January 8th, 2019


On Twitter, federal employees and others affected by the ongoing government shutdown are sharing their #shutdownstories—and, not surprisingly, many of them are focused on food. That isn’t just because people anticipating missed paychecks are worried about their grocery bills, though concerns about hunger appear to be widespread. Many have described making tough choices between fuel, meals, and medical care.


And it goes beyond basic sustenance. A USDA science tech reported not being able to enter a government greenhouse to water plants, a setback she said would ultimately cost scientists a year of work. A woman about to close on a new house described being left in limbo, thanks to a USDA rural development loan now delayed indefinitely. (“The only wall(s) I care about are the ones that support the roof I want my children to be able to live under,” she wrote.) A farmer who moonlights as a federal contractor said the shutdown would “cost me $500 a day,” making it impossible to “hire, purchase and grow.” And at USDA headquarters, reports are that staff refrigerators are all but emptied out.


Here’s how the shutdown continues to affect:


Food safety. In a primer first reported by Food Safety News, Alliance for a Stronger FDA (ASFDA), a nonprofit advocate, explained that the shutdown may significantly affect oversight of the food supply. During the current “lapse period,” ASFDA wrote, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be hobbled, though still able to perform “activities necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life.” According to the document, 41 percent of FDA’s employees will be furloughed (about 7,000 people). While the agency’s most critical public health responsibilities won’t be affected—with staff on hand to handle key duties like emergency inspections and drug shortages—other, more routine work will be suspended. That could cause issues.


“Food safety will be particularly hard-hit, including the furloughing of workers in charge of routine inspections,” according to the document, though FDA will still be staffed to handle urgent and high-risk recalls and outbreaks of foodborne illness.


The brand-spanking-new farm bill. Congress spent most of 2018 intensely haggling over the farm bill. Then, two days after President Trump signed it into law on December 20, the government shut down. Now, says Anna Johnson, policy manager of the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska, “should be one of the busiest times at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): they have hundreds of pages of new marching orders in the new farm bill.” Instead of poring through those pages, though, some USDA employees are likely at home, reading People magazine.


Farm payments. There’s something of a 50/50 split here: some continue, others are on hold. Market Facilitation Program payments, for example, which relieve commodity producers whose access to export markets has been stymied by the recent retaliatory tariffs, will go out. So will payments related to conservation easements. But rural development loans and grants for housing, community facilities, utilities, and businesses will not continue. Processing of payments for existing grants to support research, education, and agricultural extension services have been halted, too.


Native communities ...


Nuisance lawsuits ...


Free lunches ...


more, including links