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