On January 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) resumed some food safety inspections that had stopped since the government shutdown began on December 22, according to CNN. Inspectors who are back on the job are doing so without pay.

“We are restarting high risk food inspections as early as tomorrow,” said Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner, in a tweet on January 14. “We’ll also do compounding inspections this week. And we started sampling high risk imported produce in the northeast region today. We’ll expand our footprint as the week progresses.”

Last week, Gottlieb said the FDA was 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.” He noted that “31% of our inventory of domestic inspections are considered high risk;” those are the inspections the agency is now trying to resume. This applies to routine domestic surveillance inspections of foods including seafood, bakery products filled with custard, soft and semi-soft ripened cheese and cheese products, unpasteurized juices, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, sandwiches, and infant formula, among other food items.

“There is no question this has an impact, and it is not business as usual,” said Gottlieb in a tweet last week. “There is a very concerted effort to stand up critical functions and to focus on our consumer protection mission, in many cases relying on excepted employees not being paid.”

“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,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a January 8 statement on the consumer advocacy group’s website.

CNN article

CSPI statement

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