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Food Inspectors Heading Back to Work Without Pay

FDA inspections of 'high risk' items were to resume
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 15, 2019 12:55 PM CST
Food Inspectors Heading Back to Work Without Pay
This Oct. 14, 2015, file photo shows the Food and Drug Administration campus in Silver Spring, Md.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

The FDA says it will resume inspections of some of the riskiest foods—such as cheeses, produce and infant formula—that had been briefly halted as a result of the partial government shutdown. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday that the agency is bringing back about 150 unpaid employees for the inspections of riskier foods, which account for about a third of the agency's roughly 8,400 routine inspections each year, reports the AP. Though he described the shutdown as "one of the biggest operational challenges in FDA's modern history" in a tweet, Gottlieb tells the New York Times there has so far been a limited effect on food inspections since few were scheduled around the holidays. But with the holidays now passed, the Times describes a usual pace of 160 inspections a week.

"I can't tell you that they are not feeling personal hardship, but [inspectors] are dedicated and want to come back," Gottlieb tells the Times. In a series of tweets, he said inspectors began testing high-risk imported produce in the Northeast on Monday, and could begin inspections of "high risk" items like seafood and some fruits and vegetables on Tuesday. The FDA oversees packaged foods and produce. Checks of meat, poultry, and processed eggs carried out by the Department of Agriculture have continued. States handle about half of the FDA's inspections and those haven't stopped, either, while FDA inspections of imported foods and other core functions such as monitoring for food poisoning outbreaks have continued as well.

(Read more FDA stories.)

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