Government shutdown halts FDA efforts to stop foodborne illness outbreaks

The FDA has stopped routine food safety inspections for many foods at high risk of contamination due to the federal government's shutdown, The New York Times reports.

Parts of the federal government shut down Dec. 22 after Congress and the White House did not reach a spending deal the previous night.

The FDA oversees about 80 percent of U.S. food supply and most overseas imports.

FDA inspectors typically examine operations weekly at about 160 domestic manufacturing and food-processing plants . Nearly one-third of these plants are at high risk of causing food-borne illnesses. 

Agriculture department staff are still inspecting domestic meat and poultry but are not being paid.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said he was taking steps to restore food safety surveillance inspections and to cover more of the high-risk sites as the shutdown continued.

Dr. Gottlieb said he aims to bring back about 150 inspectors furloughed during the shutdown, possibly as early as next week.

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