Everyone returning to work early Wednesday at Colorado’s big JBS beef plant had to contend with some pretty cold weather, but they did not have any concerns about whether USDA inspectors would be on hand. Without those inspectors, the largest employer in Greeley, CO, with a payroll of about 5,000, would have to shutdown.
But USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) personnel were present Wednesday to provide JBS with the continuous inspection services required by federal law. Meat, poultry and processed egg inspection services are among those USDA activities that are continuing during the 5-day-old partial government shutdown.
Government agencies like USDA and FDA are calling the partial government shutdown a “lapse in funding for the federal government.” While budgets for three-quarters of the federal government were approved as part of the normal appropriations process, the other one-fourth require continuing resolutions, or CRs, to keep operating.
Most of FSIS’s 10,000 employees report to work at about 6,200 private establishments where they provide inspection services. They are among the 61 percent of USDA’s employees that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has either “exempted or excepted” from furloughs during the partial shutdown.
Other USDA activities that will continue include:
- Grain and other commodity inspection, weighing, grading, and IT support services funded by user fees.
- Inspections for import and export activities to prevent the introduction and dissemination of pests into and out of the U.S., including inspections from Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
USDA and FSIS do not plan to update the agency websites until a new CR is reached. FSIS has not reported a recall since Dec. 21. USDA’s Market News Service continues to operate because it “provides critically important market information to the agriculture industry.”
During the partial government shutdown, FDA says “agency operations continue to the extent permitted by law, such as activities necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life and activities funded by carryover user fee funds.”
During the lapse period, FDA says its will continue “vital activities,” including “among other things: maintaining core functions to handle and respond to emergencies – such as monitoring for and quickly responding to outbreaks related to foodborne illness and the flu; supporting high-risk food and medical product recalls when products endanger consumers and patients; pursuing civil investigations when we believe public health is imminently at risk and pursuing criminal investigations; screening the food and medical products that are imported to the U.S. to protect consumers and patients from harmful products; and addressing other critical public health issues that involve imminent threats to the safety of human life. Mission critical surveillance for significant safety concerns with medical devices and other medical products will also continue.”
The most recent food recall by a company under FDA jurisdiction was posted on Dec. 20.
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