In this file:
· With inspectors furloughed, reduced FDA inspections ‘put our food supply at risk’
· FDA Calls Inspectors Back Amid Government Shutdown
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...
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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...