In news that will have you casting a side-eye at your sandwich, the government shutdown is seriously affecting food inspections. As in, much of your food is going uninspected, even below the weak inspection levels usually in place. But don't worry! If you're part of an outbreak of food poisoning, you won't know what the problem was anyway, because workers at the Centers for Disease Control are furloughed.
At the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for inspecting the bulk of food that Americans eat, the agency has gone from a goal of inspecting about 200 plants per week to none and has reduced inspections of imported food. At the Agriculture Department, a meat and poultry hot line that consumers can call for information about food safety or to report problems is closed. At the C.D.C., about 68 percent of staff members were furloughed, including several epidemiologists and dozens of other workers who oversee a database that tracks food-borne illness.The CDC has had to recall some furloughed workers to deal with a salmonella outbreak that started before the shutdown, and the USDA is threatening to close three Foster Farms poultry processing plants. The good news is that USDA inspectors do remain on the job inspecting meat and poultry, though they are of course currently working without pay. Quartz has a helpful rundown of which agency inspects which kinds of food.
It's distressing enough to think about how weak our food inspection systems are to begin with, and then to add repeated hits to them over the past year:
A new food safety law, passed in 2011, that was supposed to give the F.D.A. greater enforcement powers had already been delayed because of the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. It will now be further delayed because of the shutdown.As with all the shutdown's effects, don't forget to thank a Republican! And if food safety is seriously compromised by the lack of inspections, may Ted Cruz and John Boehner be among the first to get an epic case of the runs.