U.S. government shutdown’s effect on food safety, security

October 1, 2013

According to the Des Moines Register, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the government shutdown wouldn’t be as dramatic initially for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) as it would be for other departments.

The closure spares essential employees at the USDA engaged in protecting life and property such as Forest Service firefighters and food safety inspectors. USDA’s shutdown plans keep 87% of the 9,633 employees at its Food Safety and Inspection Service, charged with protecting the safety of meat, poultry, and eggs, on the job.

However, the shutdown has halted enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices have closed. A handful of FSA activities deemed essential to protecting property, such as emergency and natural disasters response, are not affected. Additionally, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is not affected since it is funded through the Recovery Act and the monies do not expire for another year.

Schools are reimbursed for lunch and other meal costs on a monthly basis and are allowed to carry over funds from the previous fiscal year. The USDA expects most schools will be able to continue providing meals through October.

As for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it has had to cease most of its food-safety operations, according to The Washington Post. That includes “routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs (e.g., food contact substances, infant formula), and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.”

Des Moines Register article

The Washington Post article