June 19, 2019

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro Urges End to Shutdown

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is urging the government to reopen areas that are shutdown, and end food safety risks to consumers. The shutdown is now on Day 28. Some employees at the FDA and USDA are furloughed, and others are working without pay. The FDA has brought back some workers, but they are not being paid.

FDA USDA Government Shutdown

In her statement, she writes, “The President’s shutdown is putting our nation’s food supply at risk—a fundamental responsibility of the FDA and USDA. FDA inspectors are still working without pay, and they are only able to carry out one third of regular inspections. FDA also remains understaffed for food surveillance and food recall operations, and enforcement appears to be down. At the same time, the status of FDA’s work finalizing guidance and implementing rules related to the Food Safety Modernization Act remains uncertain. That is unacceptable.”

Last year, there were at least 15 major foodborne illness multistate outbreaks that sickened and killed consumers in this country. The largest, the McDonald’s cyclospora outbreak, sickened 511 alone.

DeLauro chairs the Congressional Food Safety Caucus and is a senior Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the USDA. Other advocates from food safety organizations have chimed in.

Thomas Gremillion of the Consumer Federation of America said, “Most Americans support more inspections, not to mention other food safety protections. This shutdown is putting stress on an already overburdened system. Consumers deserve better assurance than this that their food is being kept safe.”

Sarah Sorscher with the Center for Science in the Public Interest added, “We are coming out of a year that full of high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness. The FDA should be focused right now on finding solutions to make our food safer. Instead, they’re scrambling just to staff basic inspection duties, making consumers even less confident in our food system.”

And Tony Corbo, with Food and Water Watch, said, “USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors work in some of the most inhospitable environments. Those who work in slaughterhouses often have to wade through animal blood, feces and animal parts in order to carry out their duties. They are also exposed to caustic chemicals that are used in meat and poultry processing. In many cases, they are working understaffed.  These dedicated civil servants have been required to do more with no pay during the past month. To add insult to injury, we are now starting to hear that some inspectors are having to scrape money together for gas to put in their cars in order to get to work because they have not been paid on time. Many are talking about quitting. The situation is becoming untenable.”

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