Government shutdown also affects food inspections

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Every day the government is shut down is likely to affect the food you buy or consume at restaurants.

Hitting the four-week mark, the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history continues to affect the everyday lives of citizens. One aspect of the closure that is not being discussed is how it is affecting what is being consumed on a daily basis.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration resumed minimal food safety inspections on Tuesday. All inspections had been paused since the government shutdown began on Dec. 22.

Inspectors who are back on the job are doing so without pay.

Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, took to Twitter to discuss the FDA staff’s return. A vast majority of the 400 being called back are inspectors and groups of diverse employees to support the food inspections.

About 400 total staff, vast majority are inspectors and others are to support inspectors. About 150 of 400 are focused on food inspections, rest are focused on other aspects of mission including medical devices (about 100 staff), drugs (about 70 staff) and biologics (90 staff),” Gottlieb tweeted.

Do you think food is getting inspected correctly by workers who are not being compensated for their work?

Joshua Thomas, a senior at FAMU, lives a vegan lifestyle. Many vegans favor a diet rich in whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Relying on mostly farm grown foods, Thomas has a limited diet with few choices. He discussed how the government shutdown affects his diet as he worries about eating clean ingredients.

“Already having very few choices, the government shutdown definitely effects vegans. It honestly affects everyone,” said Thomas. “With so many different food bacterias, like e-coli and salmonella, it is already important to be careful what you eat but right now it is crucial.”

Walmart cashier Junaid James said that many shoppers are continuing to purchase foods that are required to be inspected by the FDA. Many of these foods include cheeses, seafood, bakery products, fruits and vegetables and even baby formula.

“I have not noticed a difference in the way customers are buying grocery. I am assuming many people do not know their foods are being poorly inspected or not inspected at all,” said James.

Grocery stores like Walmart, Publix and WholeFoods are among the chains that can be affected. If a customer is exposed to a bacteria that can result in food poisoning, grocery stores could be at risk.

“At the end of the day Walmart is a money-making grocery store, I do not think they will take any of these foods off the shelves while the government is shut down. However, they can be in some trouble if someone is actually harmed by the foods not being properly inspected,” said James.

The FDA says consumers should always follow safe food handling and preparation practices to reduce the risk of food poisoning illnesses.