FDA Furloughs Causes Suspension of Routine Food Inspections Putting Consumers at Risk
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has furloughed hundreds of workers causing suspension of all routine inspections of food processing facilities. According to a news report in The Washington Post, this is one of the many repercussions of the partial government shutdown, and is putting Americans at risk of food-borne illnesses. The agency oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food supply.
But, because of the shutdown, it has suspended all routine food inspections. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said he is working on a plan to bring back inspectors as early as next week to inspect high-risk facilities that handle items such as seafood, soft cheeses and vegetables. These are essentially facilities that have a history of food safety problems.
Danger of Food Poisoning
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group, has described these reductions in inspections as unacceptable because its puts the nation’s food supply at risk. Regular inspections help stop food-borne illnesses before people get sick. Food poisoning is a major problem in the United States. Each year, 3,000 people die and about 48 million become ill due to contaminated food.
The FDA typically conducts about 160 routine food inspections each week in the United States and about a third of these involve high-risk food processing facilities. These inspectors look for problems such as unsanitary conditions, insect infestations and bacterial contamination, among other things.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) operates in parallel with the FDA inspecting meat, poultry and egg products. Thankfully, those inspections are continuing despite the shutdown. About 40 percent of the FDA’s activities including much of its food-related work, are paid for by appropriations, which Congress has not yet approved.
If You Have Been Affected
If you have been sickened by contaminated food, it would be in your best interest to take a number of steps to protect your legal rights. First, make sure you get prompt medical attention, treatment and care for your illness. Some food poisoning incidents might lead to hospitalization and even long-term side effects and consequences. For example, some E. coli infection cases might lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS, which could lead to kidney damage.
It would also be a good idea to report your illness to your local healthcare agency, which tracks these episodes and outbreaks. Contact an experienced California food poisoning lawyer who will fight to protect your rights and hold negligent manufacturers accountable.