Routine food inspections halted by US government shutdown

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees 80 percent of the USA food supply, but under the GOP shutdown hundreds of food inspectors have been furloughed.

With around 7,000 of its 17,000 employees furloughed, the Food and Drug Administration is not able to carry out many of its regular activities, such as some domestic food safety inspections, commissioner Scott Gottlieb told NBC News in an interview published Wednesday. But such inspections have not been scheduled as usual due to the shutdown. "We're taking whatever steps we can to support our colleagues as they fulfill our commitments to the American people under challenging circumstances".

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The partial government shutdown has been going since December 22 with no sign of a compromise.

/ A man shops for vegetables beside Romaine lettuce stocked and for sale at a supermarket in Los Angeles, California, on May 2, 2018, where the first death from an E coli contaminated Romaine lettuce outbreak was reported. The shutdown, now in its 19th day, is the President's response to not yet receiving Democratic approval for funding a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

Gottlieb said they are still doing all foreign inspections, "The Agriculture Department handles all meat and chicken inspections and those operations are not effected by the shutdown". Trump said after the meeting it was a "total waste of time". "I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

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Gottlieb also tweeted that the FDA is working to continue with the inspections unlike the agency did during the government shutdown in 2013.

"I think most people agree these inspections are important".

The CDC says food-borne illness kills 3000 people in the US annually, and sickens a whopping 48 million people each year. That led to far fewer federal inspections on domestic food.

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Gottlieb noted that of the 160 weekly domestic food inspections routinely conducted by the FDA, about one-third of those are considered high-risk facilities.