Consumers can rest assured that even with the government shutdown that went into effect on Tuesday, all of the meat, poultry and eggs bought from the grocery store will be inspected as usual by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But that’s not necessarily the case for other foods -- like cheese, produce and boxes of cereal. Inspections for these products fall under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration, which had to furlough 45 percent of its staff on Tuesday.
Londa Nwadike, a food safety educator for the University of Missouri and Kansas State University based in Blue Springs, Mo., said that means fewer inspections of these foods.
“It shouldn’t be a huge impact on public health in terms of food safety but it’s not good, obviously, that it’s happening,” she said.
The shutdown is also triggering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to furlough 68 percent of its staff. This could have a major impact on food safety because there will be fewer staff members to identify and respond to foodborne disease outbreaks.
“Part of me hopes that the shutdown won’t last very long and there won’t be that much of an impact,” Nwadike said. “But if it lasts a long time and if then it unfortunately coincides with a foodborne disease outbreak, then that’s a bigger problem.”
State public health departments should be working as normal, but CDC federal investigators won’t do in-depth research using genetic and molecular analysis to link outbreaks across state lines during the shutdown.