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What Happens to Food Safety if There’s a Government Shutdown?

If Congress fails to approve a budget by Monday night, the government will shut down on Oct. 1 and thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.

A contingency staffing plan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that, in the absence of appropriations, 45 percent of the Food and Drug Administration’s 14,779 employees would be temporarily forced out of their jobs.

“FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities,” reads the HHS plan. This means that routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs, and the majority of the lab research would stop.

The 8,180 retained staff would continue “vital activities including maintaining critical consumer protection,” such as handling emergencies, high-risk recalls and civil and criminal investigations.

With 68 percent of its staff furloughed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be unable to support state and local partners in infectious disease surveillance and would be at a significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations.

As for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which regulates meat and poultry processing and packaging, 87 percent of 9,633 employees would be retained “to ensure the safety of human life for the duration of a government shutdown.”

But the USDA plan warns that, “A lengthy hiatus would affect the safety of human life and have serious adverse effects on the industry, the consumer and the Agency.”

“Despite the agencies’ planning, a government shutdown will make it easier for contaminated food to slip through to consumers and will make it harder for the federal government to identify and respond to outbreaks,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Food Safety Director, in a statement. “The government’s food safety functions are far more pressing than the unrealistic demands being made by petulant extremists in the House.”

© Food Safety News
  • Brian S

    Government shutdown means severely hampered PulseNet and no influenza surveillance/vaccine program…there are no words to describe the irresponsibility here…

  • Roger P.

    Yup. The sky is now officially falling. All because Obama and the Democrats refuse to reasonably negotiate any part of Obamacare – one of the biggest new budget buster entitlements driviing our need to run up exorbitant national debt. First we had the dreaded sequester, which we all knew would shift the earth off its axis (except all those dire predictions turned out to be utter foolishness), now we certainly will be finished off for sure because 800,000 useless Federal employees have to surf the internet at home instead of at work. Yup, we are doomed. Doomed I say!

  • LakeLady

    Thanks for keeping us informed. I have grave concerns about this reckless and irresponsible action.

  • Sammy

    LCP, please keep in mind that the Affordable Care Act was approved by both the House and the Senate, signed into law by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. More than 70% of Americans believe that the Tea Party extremists are wrong in causing this shutdown. What will the Tea Party go for next? Abolishing income tax for millionaires and billionaires, giving free guns to anyone who wants them, doing away with Medicare and Social Security??? We can only hope that this is a wake-up call to Americans that will result in sending these Tea Party folk packing in the next election and replacing them with people who are reasonable and willing to negotiate openly.

  • Russell La Claire

    Interesting that FSIS folks are being kept on the job, while FDA people are not. Since FDA covers a much higher % of our food than FSIS.

    • oldcowvet

      Meat establishments by law are required to have daily inspection, as well as any animal slaughtered must be inspected. No choice but to make the FSIS inspectors ‘excpeted’ no meat.

  • hanee

    then food will be attacked & will need a food defense plan

  • Kit

    I am very upset about this shutdown. Over a health care law passed 4 YEARS ago. That’s what this is all about. How many people will die of food poisoning while Congress cannot control it’s craziest zealots?

  • Wolfgang Weicheier

    Curly: I can’t see! I can’t see!
    Moe: Why not!?
    Curly: I got my eyes closed!!

    Caroline Smith DeWaal, Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Food Safety Director, in a statement. “The government’s food safety functions are far more pressing than the unrealistic demands being made by petulant extremists in the (White) House.”

    Website to sign up for the Obamacare…Broken.

    Just wait to see how gubmit employees read an MRI.

  • dk

    This is another reason to have your own garden.