It’s been one of the biggest news stories of the past couple of weeks. The government has been shut down while the President and Congress try to hammer out a budget deal. As a result of this shutdown, thousands of government employees have been furloughed and certain agencies no longer have the funding to operate. At Food Safety Training, we usually keep our noses out of politics, but in this case, the shutdown has created challenges to keeping the food we serve safe.
Food Safety Challenges During a Government Shutdown
According to several reports, the FDA has lost funding due to the current shutdown. This means that many of the routine inspections that occur on a daily basis have ceased, and products from uninspected facilities are making their way onto grocery shelves and into the food supply used by restaurants and other industrial kitchens.
The FDA employs in the neighborhood of 5,000 inspectors and runs nearly 160 inspections per month. Those are inspections that are currently not happening. So what can certified food managers do to ensure their product is safe?
- Inspect all ingredients for potential food safety hazards
- Wash all produce
- Cook all meats to the proper temperature
- Take steps to train all staff on proper food handling procedures
The news isn’t all doom and gloom, however. While the FDA inspection process may have halted, there is still some measure of food safety control. USDA inspections of meat and some egg producers are still occurring as scheduled, the CDC is still funded in the event an agency needs to step in during a food-borne illness outbreak and foreign food inspections on products that are imported to the United States has continued. There is also speculation that the FDA may be preparing to resume inspections on facilities that produce high-risk products.
Besides governmental oversight, many of the largest food manufacturers employ their own inspectors to keep the food that leaves their facilities safe. It’s always in a company’s best interest to make sure their product will not sicken their customers, and while some food hazards slip through the cracks, many food producers have their own checks outside of government inspection.
Are there any food safety challenges that you see as a result of the government shutdown?