The FDA has suspended routine testing of most domestic food production facilities.
Routine food inspections aren't getting done because of the partial government shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. Shortly afterward, he clarified, in a separate tweet, that high-risk food inspections would continue. He notes that meat and some poultry products are still being inspected by employees now going without pay but "there are important things we are not doing".
"People shouldn't panic or stop buying their usual foods", says Sarah Sorscher, the deputy director of regulatory affairs at advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest, highlighting the efforts the FDA is making to get inspectors out to high-risk facilities.
"Want to calm some fears because of somewhat sensational reporting on the shutdown", Perdue said in a tweet Friday in response to alarming headlines, including those from The New York Times and NBC News, over food inspections halting during the government shutdown.
Should Americans worry about the food the FDA can't inspect during the shutdown? This is not welcome news for a nation just emerging from a severe romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak.
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FDA inspectors are responsible for 80 percent of the food supply, including seafood, canned goods, packaged good, fruits and vegetables. Even for high-risk facilities, the FDA is required only to inspect them once every three years. So, as Vox's Julia Belluz puts it, the number of interrupted inspections thus represent "less than half a percent of the total inspections happening annually". "People are freaking out the FDA isn't going to do its job, that they have a magical force field that's been extinguished".
There are some other institutions like the Institute of Health and the Disease prevention and control centers which have got enough funding from past year from the congress.
"We assess risk based on an overall, cross-cutting risk profile", the commissioner added.
Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, tells Live Science's Rettner that the food Americans are eating is likely as safe as it was before the shutdown. "So I think that the fact that two-thirds of establishments are not going to be inspected is still a problem".
"T$3 he infrastructure and support to the food industry", Chapman says, "could start to impact the safety of the food we are eating".