October 23, 2018

Government Shutdown Cripples USDA

usdaartThis morning, a message on the U.S. Department of Agriculture web site reads: “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience. After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.”

The USDA web site has been shuttered because of the government shutdown, so if there are any recalls for Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, etc. on meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs, an announcement will be made, but consumers will not be able to search for recalls. The USDA Hotline has been closed, food safety education has stopped, and label reviews will be halted. As part of essential services, inspection of meat, poultry, and egg products will continue, but 1,200 Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employees will be furloughed.

Consumer groups are responding to the shutdown. Center for Science in the Public Interest Director Caroline Smith DeWaal sent a message to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), saying “Despite the agencies’ planning, a government shutdown will make it easier for contaminated food to slip through to consumers and will make it harder for the federal government to identify and respond to outbreaks. Speaker Boehner should not let food safety and other vital government functions be held hostage just because an extreme faction in his caucus opposes the health care reform law. The government’s food safety functions are far more pressing than the unrealistic demands being made by petulant extremists in the House.”

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