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Food Safety Dangers from the Government Shutdown

Friday, October 11, 2013By Richard Alexander
FDA recallThere is silence among the federal agencies. Those in charge of agricultural production safety, including vegetables and dairy goods, have been furloughed. Those in charge of inspections, administration of agency prerogatives, and other specialists are currently out of a job due to the stalwart in legislation that has caused a shutdown of the government.

Representatives like Rosa L. DeLauro, (D) Connecticut have voiced their concern, saying the shutdown is a self-inflicted injury that is putting citizens health in jeopardy—especially due to the recent seventeen state Salmonella outbreak in chicken, which since has been traced to a producer in California.

Also because to the shutdown, important agricultural reports have been nixed which will lead to a lack of progress on future planting and commodities markets. This includes World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates, a high profile report that supplies data on products including corn, cotton, meat, and sugar. Naturally, this causes problems for commodities investors.

But product reports are nothing compared to the current lack of government service. The FDA has reduced its goal of inspecting two hundred plants per week to none. The Agriculture Department has closed its food safety information hotline. The C.D.C., which is responsible for the control of disease outbreak, has reduced almost seventy percent its workers, which include epidemiologists that study extreme bacteria and diseases like Salmonella or E. coli.

Due to the recent Salmonella outbreak, the C.D.C has brought back around thirty workers to handle the situation, but for a nation-wide crisis, this is not enough and some worry of the dangers it will cause to Americans.

The FDA has been severely affected by the shutdown, leaving forty-five percent of the staff furloughed. Besides the Salmonella outbreak, this is a concern for the safety of imported goods.

Typically, the agency inspects less than two percent of imported food, but will now not say what percentage is being inspected, only that it is less than two percent.

The shutdown has brought concerns to the normal agency duties, including the physical inspections at the nation's ports, which import millions of pounds of food each day.

While the F.D.A. Is contracted to do inspections in many states because their budget was decided in the last fiscal year, over nine thousand inspections have been put on hold due a lack of funds.

They don't have much say in the matter, due to a 2011 food safety law first being delayed by the sequestration and then again with the current shutdown.

The Agriculture Department's Food Safety Service, responsible for inspections of meat and poultry plants, is fortunately still running.

However, the Food Safety Service is a small part of a massive and vital infrastructure, and the government shutdown has laid pressure on an already burdened system, putting the country's food in serious danger.

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