Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Unpaid FDA Workers Restart ‘High Risk’ Food Inspections

Food
Unpaid FDA Workers Restart ‘High Risk’ Food Inspections
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

After a year that saw the most Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) food safety investigations in at least 12 years, one of the most frightening impacts of the ongoing government shutdown has been the suspension of routine food safety investigations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Now it looks like America's eaters can rest a little easier. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced on Twitter Monday that FDA employees had stepped up to do some important food inspection work unpaid.

"We re-starting high risk food inspections as early as tomorrow," Gottlieb wrote.

'High risk' foods include soft cheeses, sea food, custard-filled baked goods, some fruits and vegetables and baby formula, The New York Times reported. Lower risk foods include non-custard-filled baked goods, according to NBC.

Gottlieb told NBC last week he would attempt to recall about 10 percent of the food inspectors who had been furloughed since the government shutdown began December 22.

"We got an overwhelming response from our very dedicated and mission-driven field force who are coming back to work unpaid," he told NBC.

The FDA is responsible for inspecting food-producing facilities. It usually conducts about 160 inspections a month with a team of 5,000 inspectors. Gottlieb said about 700 were returning to work. In addition to restarting high-risk inspections today, the FDA also began sampling high-risk imported produce in the Northeast region on Monday, Gottlieb tweeted. The agency will also restart drug inspections.

"By next week we will have restarted all the medical product inspections that weren't covered by user fees that were shut down," he told NBC. "That includes things like compounding inspections."

Recalled workers will also assist with the monitoring of food-caused disease outbreaks, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, inspections of meat and some egg products, which fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have continued throughout the shutdown thanks to unpaid workers. Congress mandates that these inspections never cease, NBC reported.

Gottlieb told The New York Times that the shutdown had not interfered with many scheduled FDA inspections because it began over the holidays and not many inspections were scheduled for the second week of January. As the shutdown wore on, Gottlieb got permission from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to recall some employees, about 40 percent of whom had been furloughed.

About a third of FDA inspections involve high risk food, Gottlieb told The New York Times. The FDA is responsible for monitoring around 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, as well as international imports. It is responsible for some 80,000 food plants, inspecting around 10 percent each year.

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less
New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less

piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In an alarming new study, scientists found that climate change is already harming children's diets.

Read More Show Less