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In Fed Shutdown, FDA, USDA to Maintain Funding for Emergencies, Food-Safety Crises

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will retain more than half of its staff if the federal government is forced to shut down tomorrow, a public document shows.

Of the agency's 14,800 employees, 8,180 individuals would continue working for FDA, according to a contingency budget plan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That means FDA would have to put 6,620 employees on furlough as of the second day of a funding hiatus.

A deeply divided Congress has until midnight to reach an agreement to fund the federal government.

FDA's remaining staff would include 869 employees dedicated to protecting property and involved in the safety of human life, the document states.

In addition to engaging in "limited activities" related to programs funded by user fees, "FDA would also continue select vital activities including maintaining critical consumer protection to handle emergencies, high-risk recalls, civil and criminal investigations, import entry review, and other critical public health issues," HHS notes.

But a lack of government funding would deprive FDA of the resources to fund most of its cosmetic, nutrition and food-safety activities, according to HHS.

"FDA will also have to cease safety activities such as routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs (e.g., food contact substances, infant formula), and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making," HHS explains.  

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will continue to have funds to ensure the safety of America's meat and poultry products. The continuing activities include "daily on-site inspection presence, regulatory enforcement and product testing in the laboratories," according to a document from FSIS.

Other events that are exempt from a government shutdown include "responding to intentional and unintentional food safety events,"  FSIS states. "A small number of individuals will support these activities for the duration of the shutdown, while others will be available on-call if such an event occurs, including recall staff, scientists; recall communication specialists, and food defense specialists."

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