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How the Government Shutdown Affects Food Safety

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Mission critical activities, including responding to foodborne illness outbreaks, will continue.

–UPDATE —January 9, 2019 – Today FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. gave an update about food inspections in the context of the government shutdown. He chose Twitter to deliver his statement. He said FDA is expanding the scope of food safety surveillance inspections that are occurring during the shutdown to ensure that high-risk food facilities are address (31% of domestic inspections are high risk). He added that the agency continues to conduct all foreign food inspections.

“We assess risk based on an overall, cross-cutting risk profile. The primary factors contributing to a facility’s risk profile include: the type of food, the manufacturing process, and the compliance history of the facility. Commodities deemed high risk include, but aren’t limited to: modified atmosphere packaged products; acidified and low acid canned foods; seafood; custard filled bakery products; dairy products including soft, semi-soft, soft ripened cheese and cheese products, unpasteurized juices; sprouts ready-to-eat; fresh fruits and vegetables and processed fruits and vegetables; spices; shell eggs; sandwiches; prepared salads; infant formula; and medical foods.” – Scott Gottlieb, M.D., FDA

–END UPDATE–

As the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues, businesses across industries are concerned about what resources are available.

At FDA, “All our work is important, but only some of our work is permitted to continue during a lapse in funding,” according to an agency statement. This work includes any activities that are considered “mission critical”:

  • Maintaining core functions that handle and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks
  • High-risk food recalls
  • Screening foods imported into the United States
  • The pursuit of civil and/or criminal investigations when the agency believes that the public health is at risk

At USDA, FSIS will continue much of its food safety activities Field inspection of meat, poultry and egg products will continue, as well as regulatory enforcement and product testing in labs. The agency will also continue its enforcement and food safety surveillance and investigations, which includes recall initiation, traceback/traceforward investigations.

“The agency must ensure adequate senior level management and coordination of the agency’s public health responsibilities during a shutdown. Excepted activities include responding to intentional and unintentional food safety events. A small number of individuals will support these activities for the duration of the shutdown, while others will be available on call if such an event occurs, including recall staff, scientists; recall communication specialists, significant incident specialists.” – USDA

In addition USDA/FSIS personnel at the agency’s three field labs are considered “excepted” during the shutdown. A full breakdown of FSIS activities that will continue are available on the USDA’s website.

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