Continued Shutdown Hampers Outbreak Response
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
The impact of this shutdown of federal agencies could be heartbreaking. An outbreak may already be happening but without the skills of federal public health investigators, it could continue without an appropriate public health response.
The task of tracking the food that is causing an outbreak takes a trained group of public health investigators, from epidemiologists at CDC to experts in food production and traceability at USDA and FDA. Together these experts gather evidence from state investigations and victim interviews, and analyze the clues that lead to the identification of the contaminated food causing the outbreak. When an outbreak is solved, contaminated food is pulled from shelves, protecting both consumers from illnesses and businesses from harm and potential liability.
But right now, these agencies are operating with skeleton crews. This means that some outbreaks will never be investigated and solved while others might be solved days or weeks later than they otherwise would. And each day of delay means that more consumers could be sickened from the undiscovered contaminated food.
In the best of times, these investigations are complex and hard to solve. But it is truly reckless to continue this government shutdown, and leave consumers and the food industry unprotected. It is time for these public servants to get back to work.
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Note: CSPI will be participating in a news conference at 11am in the U.S. Capitol, Mansfield Room, with Senators Stabenow, Mikulski, Harkin, Klobuchar, and Markey.
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).