FDA restarts food safety inspections amidst government shutdown
Starting this past Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) resumed inspections of food facility and some drug inspections that were put on hold due to the government shutdown.
Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the following on Monday, via Twitter: "The response from our outstanding field force and inspectorate has been overwhelming and outstanding. They're among the finest, most dedicated professionals in our federal workforce and we're grateful for their service. We re-starting high risk food inspections as early as tomorrow. We'll also do compounding inspections this week. And we started sampling high risk imported produce in the northeast region today. We'll expand our footprint as the week progresses. Our teams are working."
He also said: "This work is being done by an inspectorate that's largely going unpaid. These men and women are the tip of the spear in our consumer protection mission. They're the very front line. And they're on the job. The entire nation owes them gratitude. I'm inspired by their dedication."
Hundreds of furloughed employees have agreed to work and restart inspections. The inspections had previously stopped with the federal government shutdown, which began on December 22.
High-risk food inspections were restarted this week, which includes cheese, other dairy products, and fresh produce. Lower-risk inspections include baked goods.
About 10 percent of food inspectors started working again this week, even though they are not getting paid. The agency employs about 5,000 inspectors, and about 700 will be coming back to work. Although the FDA inspects most of the country's food supply, some meat and egg products are inspected by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Servive. The USDA said that those inspectors are still working, but without pay—the law (as written by Congress) has continuous USDA inspection as a requirement.
Washington Post, 1/15/19, "FDA restarts some food, drug inspections halted by shutdown"
NBC News, 1/14/19, "FDA to resume food safety inspections Tuesday"