The impact of the ongoing government shutdown has furloughed numerous federal employees, shut down organizations intended to fund medical treatments (such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH)), and closed important agencies that are vital to protecting the safety and health of Americans.
Now, food safety experts predict that the shutdown is now endangering what Americans eats. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for inspecting and monitoring the U.S.’ food supply, is also on furlough, meaning food that is imported from other countries, such as fruits, vegetables, and seafood is not being inspected. As far as our meat and poultry are concerned, inspectors are required to be employed at every meat processing plant in the nation by law, which means that domestic meat will still continue to be inspected. Although, this seems rather alarming, it is estimated that the FDA, on average inspects about two percent of food coming into the U.S. According to CNN’s Eatocracy, the Department of Health and Human Services has a contingency plan in place in the event of a government shutdown that identifies FDA staff members that must remain employed to “inspect regulated products and manufacturers, conduct sample analysis on products and review imports offered for entry into the U.S.”
In the event of a food-borne illness outbreak, like the Foster Farms salmonella outbreak that has sickened over 300 people in 18 states, it becomes a little more concerning. On Tuesday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recalled only 30 of its 13,000 furloughed worked to handle the investigation and analysis of the outbreak. Although, they seem to have this outbreak under control, it is hard to say how they will handle future food-borne illness outbreaks, should the shutdown continue for much longer. On a yearly basis, over 48 million people become sick with a food-borne illness.
In other news, the shutdown is even affecting the craft beer industry. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (or TTB), the agency that processes applications for new breweries, brews, and even labels is closed. According to the Associated Press, the TTB will still process taxes from existing permit holders, but all new applications are on hold. For mass production breweries like Coors, the impact may not be as severe, but for craft breweries whose businesses’ thrive on unique and seasonal beers, the costs may be a lot higher. In Texas, craft brewers have especially been hit hard. Just five months ago, Texas lawmakers permitted craft breweries to sell their products to consumers on-site, and now to sell any new beer, there will be an even longer delay. Elsewhere around the country, brewers such as Mike Brenner of Milwaukee had just filed for a tasting room, states:
“My dream, this is six years in the making, is to open this brewery and I’ve been working so hard, and I find all these great investors. And now I can’t get started because people are fighting over this or that in Washington… This is something people don’t mess around with. Even in a bad economy, people drink beer.”