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.
The FDA says it’s working to bring back about 150 employees to inspect riskier foods such as cheese, infant formula and produce. The FDA conducts about 8,400 inspections a year, or an average of 160 per week. The FDA said riskier foods account for about a third of the food covered by the agency’s domestic inspections.
Factors that determine whether a food is more susceptible to contamination include the type of food, how it’s made and the facility’s history of violations.
The Department of Agriculture said its inspections of meat, poultry and processed eggs will continue, and that 89 percent of its food safety employees are still working. Restaurants are overseen by local health agencies.
Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the FDA’s short-term lapse in routine food inspections isn’t a cause for worry, but will be if the shutdown continues.
“That’s more and more issues they’re potentially not catching,” she said.
She said a long shutdown could hinder the FDA’s work on implementing new food safety standards .