FDA "working to continue" domestic seafood inspections during shutdown

Published on
January 10, 2019

The number of food safety inspections conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has dropped since the country’s federal government shutdown began nearly three weeks ago. However, the FDA’s top official went to social media on Wednesday, 9 January, to outline his agency’s actions while lawmakers and the Trump administration attempt to settle their impasse.

“We’re taking steps to expand the scope of food safety surveillance inspections we’re doing during the shutdown to make sure we continue inspecting high risk food facilities,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted. He added the agency considers 31 percent of the reviews of domestic facilities to be “high-risk.”

Seafood products are among the items the FDA considers as high-risk. Gottlieb made his comments online after reports circulated that the agency had stopped performing high-risk inspections. While that happened during a 2013 shutdown, he said the agency is “working to continue” high risk inspections for public safety reasons.

“We assess risk based on an overall, cross-cutting risk profile,” Gottlieb said. “The primary factors contributing to a facility’s risk profile include: the type of food, the manufacturing process, and the compliance history of the facility.”

One program not affected by the shutdown, according to Gottlieb, is the FDA’s foreign inspection program. That’s an area of particular concern for U.S. shrimpers, who have fought for more inspections on imported products in recent years.

According to a release from the Southern Shrimp Alliance, the FDA refused only 53 shrimp entry lines for banned antibiotic residues. Three of those refusals came in December as agency inspectors rejected shipments from Vietnam and China.

The 53 rejections were down marginally from 2017 totals, when 55 lines were rejected. However, it does represent the fewest denials since 2006, when only 26 entries were banned.

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