FDA: Shutdown Means We're Not Doing 'Important Things' Like Inspections

Pittsburgh Post Gazette via AP  File		A woman shopped for lettuce in Pittsburgh in 2018

Pittsburgh Post Gazette via AP File A woman shopped for lettuce in Pittsburgh in 2018

The shutdown, now in its 19th day, is the President's response to not yet receiving Democratic approval for funding a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

Scott Gottlieb, the head of the agency, said in a series of tweets that the FDA would normally inspect about 160 domestic manufacturing and food processing plants each week, about a third of which are associated with high-risk foods (like seafood, soft cheeses, and fresh fruits and vegetables).

The agency is still conducting inspections of foreign food coming into the country but under its shutdown contingency plan regular inspections of domestic facilities are suspended, raising concerns that Americans could be at higher risk for outbreaks of foodborne pathogens.

"A total waste of time", the president declared of the meeting afterward. While those workers still wouldn't be paid until after the shutdown ends, Gottlieb said he was setting up an agency travel account to help those inspectors keep large balances off their personal credit cards. That led to far fewer federal inspections on domestic food.

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"That's more and more issues they're potentially not catching", she said. "All our work is important, but only some of our work is permitted to continue during a lapse in funding".

One sign of FDA enforcement are the warning letters sent if problems are found during inspections.

Its regulation of new medical products could be affected as well.

The Department of Agriculture has said its inspections of meat, poultry and processed eggs will continue, and that 89 percent of its food safety employees are still working.

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"It's not business as usual, and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances".

"We are doing what we can to mitigate any risk to consumers through the shutdown", Gottlieb told the paper.

Gottlieb said on January 5 that the agency has enough left over funds to keep reviewing drugs and other medical products for about a month. They expect to restart some of those inspections next week.

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