The government shutdown has put America's food supply at risk despite the best efforts of the Food and Drug Administration, experts warn.
A third of FDA's routine inspections are of high-risk facilities that work with products like fresh fruits and veggies, seafood, dairy products, prepared foods, infant formula, and medical foods.
The partial government shutdown has been going since December 22 with no sign of a compromise. About a third of those 160 weekly inspections involve facilities that the agency considers "high risk", Gottlieb added. It comes as the agency continues to deal with an absent workforce, thanks to the government shutdown. A meeting Wednesday between congressional leaders and President Donald Trump ended abruptly, with the president storming out when Democratic lawmakers refused to fund a wall at the U.S. -Mexico border. In those evaluations, FDA inspectors assess manufacturing practices at food-processing facilities, as well as check for unsanitary conditions, such as infestations, and contamination issues. FDA actually changed its travel policies last week so inspectors can charge travel expenses to a government account instead of personal credit cards.
"For me to do that, it would require calling back about 10 percent of our inspection force [of roughly 5,000 inspectors]", Gottlieb said.
"We are doing what we can to mitigate any risk to consumers through the shutdown", Gottlieb told the paper.
The Agriculture Department is already inspecting meat and poultry without pay during the shutdown.