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FDA sharply reduces food inspections amid partial government shutdown

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Agency working to bring back inspectors

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All routine domestic food facility inspections are being suspended as hundreds of Food and Drug Administration workers are furloughed under the partial government shutdown, according to the Washington Post.

What is the impact?

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is creating a plan to bring back workers so they can resume inspections of facilities that are considered "high-risk," including those that process foods such as seafood and vegetables, the Post reported.

The FDA oversees about 80 percent of the nation's food supply and normally conducts about 160 routine inspections a month, according to the report. The agency gets about 40 percent of its funding from Congress and 60 percent from user fees.

"We are doing what we can to mitigate any risk to consumers through the shutdown," Gottlieb said.

Inspections typically center on cleanliness, contaminants and pest infestations. The agency is still inspecting recalls and outbreaks related to foreign manufacturers and producers, The Hill reported.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group, told the Post that it believes the nation's food supply is at risk.

"That puts our food supply at risk," Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the group, told the Post. "Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital."

Foodborne illnesses kill 3,000 people and sicken about 48 million people every year, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other impacts caused by the shutdown include the expiration of some affordable housing contracts, a lawsuit by federal workers and Transportation Security Administration workers quitting or calling in sick because they are not being paid, the Hill reported.

In addition the FDA, funding resources are being restricted for the FBI, Coast Guard, Secret Service, Federal Aviation Administration.

What is the background?

The partial government shutdown is its 20th day, as Democrats continue to oppose President Donald Trump's demands for $5 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump says the wall is needed to increase security and curb illegal immigration. But Democrats believe the president is making a political move to drum up more support for his base. Democrats have said they would approve $1.3 billion for border security that employs technology such as drones to monitor the border. But they remain opposed to a wall.

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