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DeLauro, Advocates Urge Trump to Reopen Government, End Food Safety Risks to Americans

January 16, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC (January 16, 2019)Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today released the following statement after holding a House Congressional Food Safety Caucus briefing on how the federal government shutdown is impacting the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food safety programs.

“The President’s shutdown is putting our nation’s food supply at risk—a fundamental responsibility of the FDA and USDA—while he holds the country hostage over a manufactured border crisis,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “FDA inspectors are still working without pay, and they are only able to carry out one third of regular inspections. FDA also remains understaffed for food surveillance and food recall operations, and enforcement appears to be down. At the same time, the status of FDA’s work finalizing guidance and implementing rules related to the Food Safety Modernization Act remains uncertain. That is unacceptable. Politically motivated carve outs will not cut it. To fully protect families from unsafe and contaminated foods, there is only one answer: end the shutdown. House Democrats have offered multiple options to reopen the government. It is time for the President to act on behalf of all Americans for the good of the country.”

“Most Americans support more inspections, not to mention other food safety protections,” said Thomas Gremillion with the Consumer Federation of America. “This shutdown is putting stress on an already overburdened system. Consumers deserve better assurance than this that their food is being kept safe.”

“We are coming out of a year that full of high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness. The FDA should be focused right now on finding solutions to make our food safer,” said Sarah Sorscher with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Instead, they’re scrambling just to staff basic inspection duties, making consumers even less confident in our food system.”

"USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors work in some of the most inhospitable environments,” said Tony Corbo with Food and Water Watch. “Those who work in slaughterhouses often have to wade through animal blood, feces and animal parts in order to carry out their duties. They are also exposed to caustic chemicals that are used in meat and poultry processing. In many cases, they are working understaffed.  These dedicated civil servants have been required to do more with no pay during the past month. To add insult to injury, we are now starting to hear that some inspectors are having to scrape money together for gas to put in their cars in order to get to work because they have not been paid on time. Many are talking about quitting. The situation is becoming untenable."

A video of the briefing can be found here.

DeLauro chairs the Congressional Food Safety Caucus and is a senior Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for funding the USDA.