The longest federal government shutdown in history continues on with no signs of it ending any time soon. With the food industry at risk, the FDA may be forced to call back more furloughed workers to bolster the agency's inspections.
Last week a handful of officials resumed inspections and are working unpaid. However, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb took to Twitter to say that more staff could be called on depending on the needs. Currently, the agency is targeting the riskiest products to ensure that consumers remain protected.
SHUTDOWN UPDATE: We’ve been recalling inspectors to perform critical, high risk food safety inspections. We’ve been asked how many dedicated colleagues are currently working on these unpaid assignments. More people are on the way. Here’s a current snapshot of our field resources:— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 20, 2019
In addition, at #FDA’s Office of Import and Enforcement Operations, which cover International Mail Facilities and ports of entry, we have about 450 FDA staff in the field - including investigators, compliance experts and supervisors - supporting these critical safety operations— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 20, 2019
More staff could be on the way depending on needs. This is a snapshot of some of our current inspection work on high-risk assignments. Taken together, it's smaller than our usual footprint. But we’re targeting the riskiest products to make sure that Americans remain protected.— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 20, 2019
While high-risk inspections are slowly resuming, routine inspections of non-high-risk facilities are still halted. According to USA Today, the FDA typically conducts about 160 domestic food inspections weekly and 31 percent of those would be considered high risk.
It's an improvement that inspectors are back on the job, even if there have only been a limited amount of recalls so far this month. Although, critics are wondering if it's due to the FDA not putting them on their website as there are fewer people to report them.