Fall is in the air. The golden leaves are falling off the trees, the sweet, Honeycrisp apples are falling into the bushels, and the country is falling apart. Or perhaps it's already fallen apart with the federal government and consequently an FDA shutdown.
What an FDA shutdown means for Americans
The Food and Drug Administration is closed, which includes food safety operations, inspections and regular recalls. And while the USDA is the agency responsible for inspecting most meat, poultry and eggs - and continues to do so - the FDA is the source of inspection for the remainder of the food supply.
The Food & Drug Administration + food safety
E. coli in that bag of baby spinach on the grocery store shelf? Toxins in dietary supplements? Salmonella on imported tomatoes? As we've seen in the past decade, it's all possible when the FDA is operating. Let alone when the FDA is shutdown and food is allowed to freestyle its way through through the supply chain.
Food safety tips in a government shutdown
So here's the Edible Times solution: choose carefully.
- If you have access to a local farmers' market, take advantage
- Wash fresh produce you bring home from the grocery store with warm water, or better yet a produce wash that contains vinegar
- Consider lightly cooking foods you might usually eat fresh, as heat can eliminate some or most of the harmful bacteria running rampant through our food system
- Select packaged foods like peanut butter with care from a trustworthy producer
- Avoid that sneaky bite of raw cookie dough, seriously
- Cook all meat, vegetables and eggs thoroughly
Sadly, the absence of FDA inspectors in food processing plants is most threatening for those who are most at risk. Especially if you're feeding the very young, the very pregnant, or the elderly. Listeria, a foodborne bacteria that can cause miscarriage during pregnancy, is most commonly found on deli meat, but outbreaks of the pathogen have been linked to frozen vegetables.
Until the government shutdown ends and FDA inspectors are allowed back to work, it seems harmless to err on the side of culinary caution. Since we can't know how long or hard this severe compromise of the health of Americans will last. Hopefully as winter comes, so will the return of food safety.
Yours in food,
"CSPI to Speaker Boehner: Food Safety More Pressing than Demands of House Extremists ~ Newsroom ~ News from CSPI ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest." CSPI to Speaker Boehner: Food Safety More Pressing than Demands of House Extremists ~ Newsroom ~ News from CSPI ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.
"About FDA." What Does FDA Regulate? N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.
"Pay & Leave Furlough Guidance." U.S. Office of Personnel Management. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.