If you thought the government shutdown was only affecting Washington bureaucrats and the tone of your nightly news, try this one on for size: the FDA has significantly reduced, and in some cases stopped altogether, food inspections due to the shutdown. Might want to rethink that Chipotle burrito with extra romaine tomorrow. This bit of queasy news comes as the Food and Drug Administration has furloughed many of its 5,000 food inspectors because of the shutdown; the agency is charged with oversight of 80 percent of the country’s food supply.
If the idea of unchaperoned food stuffs pouring out of American food plants doesn’t seem that sweet to you, fear not, the head of the FDA told the Washington Post that while, sure, he’s had to suspend all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities, he’s totally “working on a plan to bring inspectors back as early as next week to inspect facilities considered high-risk because they handle sensitive items such as seafood, soft cheese and vegetables, or have a history of problems.” Next week! What could possibly go wrong in a week? Yes, 48 million Americans get sick each year from foodborne illnesses while the FDA is on duty doing its job, but it’s probably fine, right?
“The FDA [-] typically conducts about 160 routine food inspections a week in the United States, with about a third involving high-risk processing facilities,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the Post. “The agency’s inspectors look for problems such as unsanitary conditions, insect infestations, and salmonella and E. coli contamination—as it did, for instance, in the recent investigations of romaine lettuce.”