As most of you know, our government went into a shutdown last Tuesday. What does that mean for the food industry? The FDA has said that they are maintaining 55% of their almost 15,000 person staff. But since food safety inspectors are considered nonessential, almost half aren’t working during this shutdown. What’s left of the staff will handle emergencies, high-risk recalls, and investigations. On the other hand, most of the meat inspectors for the USDA will continue to work, at least for the time being. But, since the FDA is responsible for about 80% of the food supply, and about a 1/5 of our food supply comes from overseas, we could have a situation on our hands if this shutdown lasts for much longer. The longer food processors go without inspections, the higher the chance of an outbreak. And, the CDC, which monitors foodborne illnesses, also has furloughed employees, only operating at 32%.
Even these agencies’ social media accounts are feeling the hit. Considering that many people get news of recalls, food related illnesses, and other industry news from social media, the public may become more concerned if the shutdown goes on for a while. Also, according to Food Safety News, those furloughed employees aren’t even allowed to check their work email. Here’s what some of agencies tweeted shortly after news of the shutdown:
USDA Food Safety @USDAFoodSafety- “Due to the lapse in federal government funding this channel will not be updated until the federal government reopens.”
U.S. FDA @US_FDA- “We’re sorry, but we will not be tweeting or responding to @ replies during the government shutdown. We’ll be back as soon as possible!”
CDC @CDCgov- “We’re sorry, but we will not be tweeting or responding to @ replies during the government shutdown. We’ll be back as soon as possible!”
Even though there might not be FDA inspections happening right now, we still know that food safety is in full force. That’s because all the hard work related to food safety happens inside the food production facility. Many food processors have and will continue to be their own food safety inspectors. And these companies will be ready for inspections when they resume, as they were before the shutdown happened. It’s these companies that prove that food safety goes beyond the regulations and inspections. Because, isn’t it the right thing to, not just for us, but for our children’s safety? It’s definitely something to think about.