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11 January 2019, 11:00 | Hattie Nash
Toya Sarno Jordan Bloomberg
FDA head Scott Gottlieb
Gottliebsaid he's considering recalling 10 percent of the food inspection team because it's "the right thing to do for public safety".
The U.S. government isn't doing routine food inspections because of the partial federal shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week. But such inspections have not been scheduled as usual due to the shutdown.
Just past year, the agency and the CDC helped pinpoint an outbreak of E. coli to romaine lettuce and track breakfast cereal that sickened some people with salmonella.
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A third of FDA's routine inspections are of high-risk facilities that work with products like fresh fruits and veggies, seafood, dairy products, prepared foods, infant formula, and medical foods.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people in the USA get sick each year from food-borne diseases and about 3,000 of those people die.
Its inspectors are among more than 800,000 federal employees affected by the shutdown - the result of an impasse between President Trump and congressional Democrats over funding for the US-Mexico border wall.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) said the president abruptly walked out of a White House meeting to discuss ending the shutdown, saying Trump threw a "temper tantrum because he couldn't get his way". That means the inspectors who work for the FDA have been furloughed, making it much harder for them to inspect the 80% of the nation's food supply that they oversee.
"I think most people agree these inspections are important". FDA actually changed its travel policies last week so inspectors can charge travel expenses to a government account instead of personal credit cards. Some FDA departments remain operational because they're funded by user fees.
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