Thanks to the furlough, all routine inspections of domestic food production (except for meat and poultry products) have stopped — and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is operating with a skeleton staff, was ill-equipped to deal with a recent salmonella outbreak that made hundreds of people sick in 18 states.
At the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for inspecting the bulk of food that Americans eat, the agency has gone from a goal of inspecting about 200 plants per week to none and has reduced inspections of imported food. At the Agriculture Department, a meat and poultry hot line that consumers can call for information about food safety or to report problems is closed. At the C.D.C., about 68 percent of staff members were furloughed, including several epidemiologists and dozens of other workers who oversee a database that tracks food-borne illness.
This week, food safety experts said that Americans are being put at risk for a potential health crisis because the federal agencies that deal with domestic food inspection have been dark since while politicians are fighting about government spending.
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