Should Georgians worry about food safety during the partial shutdown of the federal government? Most routine inspections by the Food and Drug Administration will be suspended. But the director of the University of Georgia’s Food Safety Center says there’s no cause for concern yet.
Michael Doyle says the FDA isn’t the agency involved in day to day inspections. “Typically FDA inspectors inspect a food processing plant once every year to every ten years, depending on the risk. So having them on furlough for a week or so isn’t going to be a high food safety risk in my view.” The FDA will still handle high-risk recalls.
Doyle says in order for meat, poultry and egg processing plants to operate, inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture must be at the facility. And USDA inspectors are still on the job. “If this furlough is short-term, just a few weeks or less, I don’t think this is a serious public health threat from a food safety perspective." Doyle says. " If it goes on longer, well that could change.” Longer-term, he warns there could be issues with imported foods coming into the country.
The State Department of Agriculture does provide contract work for USDA, FDA, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Ag Department spokeswoman Mary Katheryn Yearta says the shutdown has the potential to affect Georgia's food safety inspections, meat inspections, and contract work for EPA, depending on how long the shutdown lasts. Because of this, she says the state is being proactive and suspending all non-essential purchases until more information is known. Yearta declares "Food safety is our number one priority, so we will work to ensure this program remains topnotch despite funding difficulties. "