Food Safety Suffers in Wake of Furloughs
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are stretched thin in the wake of furloughs brought by government shutdown resulting in concerns over food safety.
Government Shutdown and Food Inspections
“Make no mistake: The safety of our food supply will suffer if agreement is not reached on a continuing resolution that funds the government.” – Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest as published by Politico
- Currently, the FDA is responsible for 80 percent of the United States food supply and is now running with only 55 percent of its 14,779 employees.
- Politico reports that all federal inspectors with the exception of some responsible for meat inspections have been placed on furlough, ultimately halting routine food inspections for both domestic and international manufacturers.
- This further inhibits the already short staffed agency that in 2012 was only able to inspect about 10,000 of the 167,000 U.S. manufacturers and about 1,300 of the 254,000 international manufacturer registered with the FDA.
CDC Struggles in the Midst of Furloughs
- Along with the FDA, the CDC has also fallen victim to cuts, operating with only 32 percent of its 12,825 employees.
- The government agency responsible for exactly what its name implies, preventing the outbreak of diseases, is currently tracking 30 clusters of foodborne illness including E. coli, listeria, and salmonella.
- According to the CDC, approximately 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses every year resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
- With furloughs in effect, monitoring these pathogens, a job normally done by eight people, is now the responsibility of only one employee.
- There is also only one employee monitoring a system put in place to inform consumers of outbreak and investigations, a job normally conducted by five employees.
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