A US Food and Drug Administration representative reports that two weeks after the government shutdown, the country’s food safety system is back to business as usual.
The shutdown (brought about by an impasse over the federal budget) idled nearly half of FDA staffers. However, some departments were slashed more severely, with nearly all of their employees furloughed.
Safety staff shutdown
Arthur Whitmore, public affairs specialist with the FDA, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the staff of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition was down to the bone during the shutdown.
“Approximately 90% of the employees of the FDA's Center for Foods were furloughed and were prohibited from working during the period,” he said. “Only the approximately 10% of CFSAN employees deemed essential worked during the furlough."
However, Whitmore reported that as soon as the shutdown ended, CFSAN employers got right back down to business.
“We picked up where we left off, after the first day,” he said. “All work projects have been re-engaged.”
The various sections of the FDA had a formidable pile of work waiting for them when the shutdown ended. The FDA had more than two weeks of recall announcements to distribute, for example, affecting foods ranging from ice cream and potato chips to dried plums and cookies.
Back to work
Whitmore reported that while the two-week gap in work has had some internal effects, such as various internal deadlines being pushed back for a couple of weeks, CFSAN staff remains focused on maintaining its dedication to food safety.
“We are a very busy center, and our work centers on protection of consumer health—assuring the safety, reliable labeling and sanitation of the food supply,” he said.