The recent government shutdown has officially become the longest in history, with no end in sight. Furloughed workers, unfilled government positions, and the lack of progress have gotten the attention of the general public as the shutdown continues. This shutdown is due to President Donald Trump requesting 5.7 billion in funding for the border wall between the US and Mexico that he initially promised during his presidential campaign run. While the effects of the shutdown are everywhere, one of the most alarming can be seen in the aisles of your local grocery store.
How is the FDA Effected by the Shutdown?
Nonessential FDA employees have been furloughed during the government shutdown. Most notably, many of the inspectors who do routine checks are 160 food manufacturing and processing plants each week. As these inspections fall behind the public has begun to have growing concerns over the safety of their food. While a lack of reviews is concerning, the reality remains that the FDA is never able to inspect all of 80 thousand food processing and manufacturing plants in the country on a regular basis. That means that although there has been a decrease in inspections, the immediate safety of the general public hasn’t taken much of a hit if any at all.
What Foods are Impacted?
Some areas of the grocery store are impacted more than others by this shutdown. 31% of the weekly inspections performed by the FDA include foods they consider to be high-risk. These high-risk items include fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, and soft cheeses. Just last year we saw a significant outbreak of e. Coli in romaine lettuce that the FDA was able to locate and quickly control. The risk of those high-risk foods being contaminated or unsafe is slightly higher now than normal, but it’s important to remember that the FDA never inspects every single item on the shelves and risk is always present. The FDA is working to bring furloughed workers back to increase the number of inspections being performed. If you are concerned about the decrease of reviews during the shutdown, it’s best to avoid the high-risk foods that the FDA is unable to inspect. The FDA is keeping the public informed during the shutdown, and if the risk to public safety becomes more prominent, you will be informed. For now, remain calm because the actual impact at this point in time is minimal.