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.
Normally, the agency’s inspectors look for such problems as unsanitary conditions, insect infestations, salmonella and E. coli contamination — as it did, for instance, in the recent investigation of romaine lettuce. The U.S. Agriculture Department operates in parallel, inspecting meat, poultry and egg products, and those inspections have continued, according to a shutdown plan forwarded by a USDA representative.