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E Coli

In theory, essential workers should be immune to a government shutdown caused by Congress and the White House not being able to get their act together. The Pentagon has already recalled a sizable portion of their workers back from furloughs. But one function of the government that seems rather essential is, in fact, being threatened by the shutdown, food safety.

Enjoy seafood? Well according to one report 90% of seafood imports are going uninspected due to the shutdown.

The furlough means more than 90 percent of the foreign seafood Americans eat is coming through unchecked, as well as half the fruit and one-fifth of the vegetables.

One of the big ways the FDA protects consumers is by blocking shipments from companies with a history of tainted foods, monitoring them through what it calls ”red alerts.” These include categories like filthiness (meaning excrement),fruits covered in pesticides, drug-doped seafood, dairy products with melamine, dietary supplements that might have mad cow disease, e. coli-containing seafood and candy laced with lead. The FDA blocks shipments from tens of thousands such violators. Now, however, there’s no one to stop those foods from finding their way onto American plates.

And it is not just seafood as half the fruit and one-fifth the vegetables being imported are also not being inspected for contamination. And the effects of the shutdown on food safety will only get worse over time.

…inspectors at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – which oversees 80 percent of the food supply – have been asked to turn in their government cell phones and not even check their work email until Congress passes a budget…

The current shutdown also means that FDA does not have personnel available to investigate outbreaks and perform tracebacks through the supply chain on foods suspected of sickening people. Of course, CDC also had to furlough its epidemiological staff, meaning the agency will not be available to support state health departments and coordinate investigations into multi-state foodborne outbreaks.

So the food is not being checked in the first instance and should an outbreak occur there will not be any way to trace the source of the contamination. Brilliant. It’s not like we need those regulations or anything – it’s just our health.

While potentially contaminated food floods into the United States, Republicans in Congress are telling everyone crap about how unnecessary government is. The real message for the American people from Washington is be careful what you eat.

Update: Salmonella outbreak and no one is home.