The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is stopping all routine surveillance inspections of facilities that manufacture food and other products that the agency regulates, officials said. According to a report on Eater.com, this change, which comes a week after the FDA announced the suspension of most foreign inspections, affects domestic inspections traditionally conducted every few years based on risk analysis.
Gaps in the Food Safety System
In lieu of these inspections, the agency is considering other ways to conduct inspections while maintaining public safety such as evaluating records instead of travel to food production sites. The agency will, however, continue to address those inspections involving specific problems that have come to the FDA’s attention. The agency will also respond to outbreaks and other public health emergencies.
Experts say this move represents a fresh blow to the interconnected system of food safety checks, which is already under immense pressure. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures, there may be fewer workers in plants as well as those who continue to show up to work tired or stressed, which could lead to more errors. Internal and third-party audits could also decline because of the pandemic.
When routine inspections are suspended, the public health infrastructure may be the last failsafe. But, as the number of coronavirus cases in the United States continues to increase, a vast majority of public health resources have shifted to deal with that crisis.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which mainly oversees meat, poultry, and egg products, issued a statement on March 17 saying it would continue normal inspection services while working to ensure the safety of employees.
As more of us stay home and prepare food at home, here are a few tips to avoid food poisoning:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any type of food.
- Wash worktops before and after preparing food especially if they have come into contact with raw meat, raw eggs, fish and vegetables.
- Make sure all meats are cooked until steaming hot with no pink meat inside.
- Avoid overstuffing your fridge. The air cannot circulate properly if you do so, which can affect the overall temperature inside.
- Cool leftovers quickly, within 90 minutes, before you store it in the fridge or freezer. Use any leftovers within two days.
- Respect “use-by” dates. Do not eat food that is past the date, even if it looks and smells okay.
If you have suffered food poisoning due to contaminated food, please get medical attention right away, contact your local healthcare agency and contact an experienced California food poisoning lawyer who will help you secure maximum compensation for your damages and losses.