Government shutdown could force FDA to cut staff
Officials working with the FDA warned that the looming government shutdown will severely restrict food and drug inspections, according to a CNN Money report.
"We will be pretty severely limited. We're hopeful that a resolution is reached before it comes to that," an official said.
The FDA, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, consists of nine centers and offices and employs 13,000 workers. However, the number of employees who would be unemployed as a result of a shutdown remains questionable.
If a shutdown occurs, the agency's Office of Regulatory Affairs, which oversees food inspections, won't operate at full capacity but will have some inspectors on staff.
Because of this, all FDA inspections of food processing facilities and drug manufacturing plants must focus on risk. That means that high-risk inspections of plants that have a history of serious safety concerns will be a priority over routine plant inspections.
If an emergency situation arises, such as a food-borne illness outbreak, the FDA will be able to call furloughed staff to return to work.
The FDA's current effort to monitor for radiation in food products coming from Japan—and for higher radiation levels in existing food products already in the market—will not be affected by staffing shortages.
However, the FDA will not conduct specific inspections of drug or medical device manufacturing facilities that are required when a manufacturer files for a new product application with the agency.
The FDA's other centers, including the Center for Biologic Evaluation, the Center for Veterinary Medicine and the Center for Medical Devices and Radiological Health will also operate at reduced capacity.
Of the agency's nine centers, only the Center for Tobacco Products, which employs 275 workers, will remain fully staffed in the event of a shutdown. That's because it is funded by the tobacco industry.