Routine inspections of domestic and international food facilities by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were “sharply curtailed” during the 16-day government shutdown in October, according to a report released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Thursday afternoon. Although the agency continued inspections where there was imminent threat to health or life, the report states, furloughing 45 percent of FDA employees delayed nearly 500 food and feed domestic inspections and kept approximately 355 state inspectors under contract from the FDA from conducting food safety inspections. The FDA also cut back examination, sampling, and laboratory analysis of imported products during the shutdown, but the OMB report did not estimate by how much. The report also neglected to address how the shutdown impacted the team working on foodborne illnesses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it did note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was unable to inspect about 1,200 hazardous waste facilities, chemical facilities and drinking water systems. Across the government, OMB estimates that the shutdown will cost the economy between $2 billion and $6 billion. “I think it’s a good thing to have these estimates of the damage that’s been done, but it doesn’t cover the risk to the public from the lost safety inspections,” said David Plunkett, a food safety attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We’ve got people who claim to be fiscal conservatives in Congress and they flushed millions of dollars down the toilet during this shutdown and risked the lives and safety of Americans. “Public health was put on the backburner.”