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"We're taking steps to expand the scope of food safety surveillance inspections we're doing during the shutdown to make sure we continue inspecting high risk food facilities", said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
However, Gottlieb says he's working on a plan to get FDA inspectors back to work as early as next week, specifically to inspect high-risk facilities that handle food items such as seafood, some cheese products, and vegetables, or facilities that have a documented history of food safety issues. About 40% of the FDA's staff is furloughed.
The FDA oversees 80 percent of the food supply in the US.
The shutdown has stretched deep into its third week and is on track to become the longest since the 1970s if the government doesn't reopen by Saturday.
Just previous year, the agency and the CDC helped pinpoint an outbreak of to romaine lettuce and track breakfast cereal that sickened some people with salmonella.
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"The shutdown hit day 19 [on 9 January], as White House negotiators and Democratic leaders continue to dig their heels in over President Trump's demand for more than $5 billion in border wall funding".
The Agriculture Department is already inspecting meat and poultry without pay during the shutdown.
Gottlieb tweeted Monday that, under normal circumstances, "we'd typically do about 160 domestic food inspections each week, and about 1/3 of those would be considered high risk". "I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"
The CDC says food-borne illness kills 3000 people in the USA annually, and sickens a whopping 48 million people each year. While those workers still wouldn't be paid until after the shutdown ends, Gottlieb said he was setting up an agency travel account to help those inspectors keep large balances off their personal credit cards. That led to far fewer federal inspections on domestic food.
Other consumer advocacy groups have argued that postponing the FDA inspections will put the American food supply at risk.