Government shutdown affecting food inspections and risk of foodborne illnesses

It’s been two weeks since our government shut down over political disputes. As the time lengthens, growing concerns for our basic health are more apparent.

Initially, the shutdown would have completely defunded both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control. Both organizations are responsible for food safety and the prevention of foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella and E. coli.


With help from some restored funding, the FDA managed to keep some workers inspecting food, but the problem is growing.

Of the original staff, only 578 remain to perform food safety measures according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. The report stated that 45 percent of the staff is currently furloughed.

“(The) FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities. FDA will also have to cease safety activities such as routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs (e.g., food contact substances, infant formula), and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making,” according to the Health and Human Services fiscal report.

The lack of employees has severely limited what the FDA can do to prevent illnesses linked to what we eat.

“The irresponsible shutting down of government and particularly public health agencies like FDA and CDC places families at risk from foodborne diseases… Food safety is a joint governmental effort incolving 13 different agencies often working collaboratively,” Director of Food Safety Caroline DeWaal and Executive Director for the Center for Science in the the Public Interest wrote in a letter to Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Oct. 4.

The letter urged Boehner and Pelosi to reopen the government and not to pick and choose certain aspects to refund during the shutdown.

Even with small chunks of the FDA remaining open, issues may be slipping through the cracks. Recently, the brand Foster Farms Chicken reported a salmonella outbreak in its factories.

The brand has not been recalled. According to Foster Farms, the outbreak is limited only to raw chicken and the company asserts that properly cooked chicken poses no danger to consumers.

Foster Farms also said that their safety inspections have not been affected by the shutdown. Local stores have not issued a recall of the brand either. Neither King Soopers nor Safeway could be reached for a comment.

For CSU, at least, these issues should not be a threat.


Dining halls on campus do not carry any of the Foster Farms brand, according to Tonie Miyamoto, director of communication for Housing and Dining Services at CSU.

CSU also has it’s own food safety net to fall back on for other meats, dairy and produce.

“We take many more precautions than the U.S. Government,” said Mark Petrino, senior associate director of residential dining.

CSU has a system of temperature control for all food and uses an internal HACCP — Hazard analysis and critical control points — program to keep food safe.

“We’ve taken pretty much all the guess work out of this,” Petrino said. “We do want to serve safe food.”

With extensive precautions in place, CSU is making up for what federal food inspections are lacking right now, at least for the meals served on campus.

“(Manufacturers) might put something into the pipeline that’s unsafe, but we will catch it long before it gets to our campus,” Petrino said.

Collegian Senior Reporter Mariah Wenzel can be reached at