May 25, 2018

What Happens to the FDA, CDC, and USDA During the Government Shutdown?

The United States government is under a shutdown as of January 20, 2018. What does that mean to the work done by the FDA and USDA to help keep our food supply safe?

Congress Building

The FDA has posted a statement saying that “only some of our work is permitted to continue during a lapse in funding.” Agency operations will continue in areas that address “imminent threats to the safety of human life and activities funded by carryover user fee funds.”

The FDFA will still monitor for and respond to food poisoning outbreaks; will support high-risk food and medical product recalls when those products endanger consumers; pursue criminal and some civil investigations when they believe the public health is at risk; screening food and medical products imported to the U.S.; and address “other critical pubic health issues.”

The FDA will not have the authority to accept user fees assessed for Fiscal Year 2018 until an appropriation is enacted. And FDA unannounced inspections may end. About 58% of FDA’s employees will continue working.

The USDA posted a statement on their website that reads, “This website will not be updated during a lapse in federal funding. Content on this website will not be current or maintained until funding issues have been resolved.”

However, the USDA will continue inspections. Most of the FSIS inspectors will report to work. Staffers will continue to conduct epidemiological investigations on foodborne illness outbreaks; will inspect slaughter houses; conduct microbiological surveillance programs; and inspect imported products as they are presented for import.

As for the CDC, a statement on Twitter two days ago stated, “CDC has begun shutdown activities. Furloughed employees should work with their supervisor this morning to complete orderly shutdown activities by noon. Contractors should contact their management with shutdown questions.”

About half of all CDC employees will be furloughed. And reports on outbreaks may be published on a slower schedule. Activities “related to the safety of human life” are supposed to continue even while the government is shut down. In 2013, during the last shutdown, some employees had to be brought back because of a Salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken products.

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