FDA Stops Food Inspections During Shutdown, Which Could Be Truly Dangerous

During the longest government shutdown in United States history, national parks have been trashed, food stamps are under threat and the Environmental Protection Agency has nearly ground to a halt.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had to furlough hundreds of inspectors and suspend routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities.

As the furlough continues, the FDA isn’t checking many of the foods we eat for potentially deadly bacteria, like Salmonella, E. coli and listeria. It seems like this poses more danger to Americans than the lack of a border wall.

Our food supply is currently at risk, according to Sarah Sorscher, the deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit consumer food safety advocacy group. “Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital,” she said in a statement.

The FDA inspects 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, including the fruits, vegetables, cheeses and packaged goods—like breakfast cereal—that we consume. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects raw meat and egg products, and those inspections are continuing—for now, at least.

On Jan. 9—day 18 of the government shutdown—FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told NBC News, “It’s not business as usual, and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances. There are important things we are not doing.”

Gottlieb later tweeted that inspections of foods considered the highest risk, such as unpasteurized juices and soft cheese, would be resuming at facilities that previously had problems like listeria or salmonella contamination or hygiene issues. The inspectors, however, will be working without pay.

As food safety expert Sarah Taber pointed out, even before the government shutdown, the FDA had been short on food inspections. Inspectors only visit high-risk food facilities once every three years, according to Taber. “People are freaking out the FDA isn’t going to do its job, that they have a magical force field that’s been extinguished,” she told Bloomberg. “They haven’t been doing enough for decades.”

Last year, five people died and hundreds more were hospitalized after eating romaine lettuce tainted with E. coli. More than 70 people got sick after eating Del Monte vegetables. Will even more bacteria-tainted items make it to store shelves this year, thanks to the shutdown?

Another food safety expert, Barbara Kowalcyk, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Ohio State University, is concerned and said consumers should be, too. “Sure, they’re underfunded, but a functioning FDA is better than what we have today,” she told Bloomberg.

Should We Stop Buying Certain Foods?

For the time being, “People shouldn’t panic or stop buying their usual foods,” the CSPI’s Sorscher told Bloomberg. “But the longer this drags on, the more risk there is.”

If the furlough continues indefinitely, consumers should probably avoid buying what the FDA considers the 10 riskiest foods that can make you sick:

  1. leafy greens
  2. eggs
  3. tuna
  4. oysters
  5. potatoes
  6. cheese
  7. ice cream
  8. tomatoes
  9. sprouts
  10. berries

Take Action

The government shutdown is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous political ploy. Please sign and share this petition telling Trump to let federal employees get back to work.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo credit: Getty Images


Mia B
Melisa Babout a month ago

thank you

Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley2 months ago

Sad. Trump is to blame.

Vincent T
Vincent T2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Roberta G
Roberta G3 months ago

Past Member...you have some "interesting" statistics there. Now it would be good if you published reliable sources for your figures (and reliable does not mean Brietbart, Fox, and their ilk). And as far as trump paying for fast food out of his own pocket (WOW!!!) , we know that. He should have given those winning players steak, paid for by him; and he should have paid for Melania's most recent FL vacation himself.

ANA MARIJA R3 months ago

No comment... :( Petition signed. Thank you.

Jessica C
Jessica C3 months ago

really questioning if Trump even has a brain these days

Roberta G
Roberta G3 months ago

Shelley W...as you say, the workers will get their back pay...someday, maybe. But consider that they are living on no pay now, and will do so for an indefinite future, due to trump's tantrums. Use your head Shelley. Some bills may be paid in the future, but people have to eat , have shelter, and medical care NOW. You are typical of Republican indifference to human pain and suffering.

Teresa W
Teresa W3 months ago


Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Thank you.

Shelley w
Shelley w3 months ago

Inspections are still being done and the workers will be getting all of their back pay. The Dems need to be negotiating with Trump rather than partying in Puerto Rico and take positive steps to reduce illegal immigration by agreeing to fund border security and the portions of a border wall being requested by Border Patrol and Homeland Security.