Government Shutdown Puts Safety of Food Supply at Risk
Statement of CSPI Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs Sarah Sorscher
The ongoing federal shutdown has halted the Food and Drug Administration’s regular food inspections. That puts our food supply at risk. Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital. Work to finish rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act has also ground to a halt, impairing efforts to improve produce safety, recall communication, and outbreak tracing.
While the FDA claims that it will continue to conduct “for cause” inspections and pursue criminal and civil investigations related to “imminent threats to human health or life,” the agency has posted no new warning letters since the shutdown began more than two weeks ago. That raises concerns that enforcement activities effectively may have stopped.
FDA’s food center is probably more affected by this shutdown than any other part of FDA, due to the center’s very limited dependence upon user fees. We urge the FDA to publish more information about the impact of the shutdown on the safety of the food supply, including more about which types of inspection, import screening, and enforcement activities are considered “critical” and which have been suspended.