Here’s the situation regarding food safety on Day 13 of the partial government shutdown: As yet, there are no worries.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are operating because their budgets went through the regular appropriations process. Also, there are the about 2,700 state and local health departments that do the frontline surveillance for foodborne diseases that are reported to the CDC. Those departments operate on state and local tax dollars.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration are partially shutdown, but their food safety work is deemed essential under the protocols that are followed when budget authority is lost.
Since the partial government shutdown began on Dec. 22, USDA meat and poultry inspectors were on duty as usual at the more than 6,000 private establishments that fall under FSIS regulations. Food regulated by both FDA and FSIS has been recalled during the past 13 days. And imported food is being checked in U.S. borders.
Today, the partial shutdown becomes the fourth longest in U.S. history, besting the 1977 and 1979 closures during President Jimmy Carter’s term. The longest closure came in 1995-96 during President Bill Clinton’s first term, lasting 21 days.
Today will see Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, officially replace Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, as Speaker of the House and the first maneuvers by the new Democratic House majority to impact the shutdown. With their next payday for the Dec. 23 to Jan. 5 pay period coming up on Jan. 11, federal employees are beginning to pressure their lawmakers to end the shutdown. Speaker Pelosi may wish to take some of that pressure off by addressing the partial shutdown with some partial openings, namely by funding the departments of treasury, state, and justice.
As it stands now, about 420,000 federal government employees — including active duty military, TSA, air traffic controllers, Border Patrol, food safety personnel and others — are working without a guarantee on when they will be paid. Another 380,000 are furloughed.
The partial shutdown is the result of President Donald J. Trump’s demand that Congress provide $5 billion for barriers on the U.S.-Mexican border that he says will help control illegal immigration, human trafficking, drugs, and other illegal activity. Border security funding of $1.3 billion is included in the proposed Homeland Security Department budget. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have said they’d go along with the $1.3 billion, but no more.
In comments from the White House carried on C-Span2 on yesterday, Trump said the Democratic leaders are putting politics ahead of national security. “I am thinking about what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said.
Also yesterday, after congressional leaders from both parties visited the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said no progress was made on the budget negotiations.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)