FDA resumes some high-risk food inspections by calling in 150 unpaid workers amid government shutdown
- The FDA was forced to suspend domestic food inspections once the government shut down in December
- Inspections of foreign food facilities have continued
- Last week, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb promised to resume high-risk food inspections
- These inspections are set to resume Tuesday with 150 FDA employees returning to work unpaid
The Food and Drug Administration said it will resume inspections of some of the riskiest foods such as cheeses, produce and infant formula as early as Tuesday.
The routine inspections had been briefly halted as a result of the partial government shutdown.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday that the agency is bringing back about 150 unpaid employees for the inspections.
Last week, the FDA announced that it would try to bring back about 10 percent of inspectors to investigate quality and safety at high risk food facilities, which account for about one third of the 79,000 registered with the FDA.
Now, a small number of inspectors are coming back to work without pay to complete as many of their scheduled high-risk inspections as possible.
The FDA says it is resuming inspections of some of the riskiest foods such as cheeses, produce and infant formula as early as Tuesday, January 15 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Though there are 79,000 total food facilities in the US the FDA reportedly performs about 8,400 routine inspections on high risk production sites each year.
The FDA oversees packaged foods and produce. Meat, poultry and processed eggs are checked by the Department of Agriculture and have continued.
States handle about half of the FDA’s inspections and those haven’t stopped.
FDA inspections of imported foods and other core functions such as monitoring for food poisoning outbreaks have continued as well, the agency said.
The FDA is required to inspect facilities that handle high-risk foods once every three years, and once every five years for other foods.
Industry fees – such as those required to register a food production facility with the FDA in the first place – account for much of the agency’s funding, but inspections are paid for directly by taxpayer dollars.
About 48 million people a year are sickened by illnesses they contracted from foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though contaminants can be picked up elsewhere along the supply chain, inspections help to insure that conditions within production facilities are sanitary so that contaminants do not then end up dispersed across the country.
Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called the shutdown ‘one of the most significant operational challenges in FDA’s recent history’ on Twitter.
‘With the support of our dedicated field force, we’re recalling hundreds of furloughed colleagues to conduct inspections of high risk food facilities and other entities; working on mostly unpaid inspection assignments, led by [the] #FDA’s outstanding inspectorate.’