Government Shutdown Halts Fda Food Inspections. Should You Worry?

The Case of the Phantom TV Chef If Julie & Julia taught us anything, its that television chefs never die, they simply become marketable brands. So you couldnt really be shocked when the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, which is also in the midst of a lawsuit with Thermador Ovens, recently sued Williams-Sonoma over the retailers use of Julia Childs name in a line of cooking products. The foundation wants Williams-Sonoma to scrub the J.C. name and image from all its marketing and social-media, and stop using her name in promotional contests. Status: Still pending At Stake: The foundation says the real issue at stake is Julia Childs legacy, especially considering the chefs well-known stance against endorsing products, but its still in the midst of calculating how much money to ask for. Memorable Quote: Foundation spokesman Todd Schulkin: Given the value of todays food celebrities, the value will be in the millions of dollars. The Case of the Eleven-Inch Footlong At the beginning of this year, Subway came under fire when photos went viral of a customer rolling out a tape measure next to his supposedly foot-long Subway sandwich, and proving that his meal literally came up short. Lawsuits inevitably followed, with one lawyer estimating that the company essentially cheats its patrons of $142.5 million worth of food every year. Subway responded by pledging to tighten its standards and ensure that a foot equates to 12 inches in each of its more than 38,000 restaurants worldwide. Status: At the Subways request, the case was moved to the federal court system in May. At Stake: On Subways side, potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, and as-yet-uncalculated costs of instituting a new hoagie-measuring system. On the plaintiffs side, bigger sandwiches and, presumably, waistlines. Memorable Quote: Plaintiff Jason Leslie: They advertise in all these commercials, Footlong, Footlong, Footlong, and now I feel like an idiot. I cant believe I fell for that trick. The sandwiches are anywhere between a half-inch to an inch shorterI feel cheated. The Case of the Anus Burger In 2007, Carls Jr.

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Susan Walsh/AP/File Enlarge When it comes to the government shutdown, there are plenty of things to feel gloomy and alarmed over. One of the more attention-getting work stoppages so far has been at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where 45 percent of employees have been sent home and many of the agencys day-to-day activities, most notably food safety inspections, are on hold until the budget impasse is over. The Christian Science Monitor Weekly Digital Edition So, 91 percent of seafood that Americans consume, which the United States imports, is not being inspected, currently. The same goes for the nearly 50 percent of fruits and 20 percent of vegetables consumed in the US but imported from abroad. And though many of inspections here in the US are still being carried out through state and local agencies, reporting any problems encountered at the federal level could be difficult. Detection [of problems] wont be the issue,” says Neal Hooker, a professor of food policy at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University in Columbus.Management of, say, a product recall, and helping local public-health agencies work more effectively, those parts will be harder to do. The government shutdown has closed down a large part of the FDA, and its food monitoring activities in particular. FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities, reads a Health and Human Services memo detailing a contingency plan in the case of a government funding stoppage. FDA will also have to cease safety activities such as routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs, and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making. RECOMMENDED: Government shutdown quiz The FDA will maintain certain emergency services during the shutdown, including managing high-risk food recalls and other critical public health issues, per the memo. But the lack of routine health inspections, and the management oversight of more routine food supply hiccups that the FDA deals with on a day-to-day basis begs two questions: Is the countrys food supply safe without the FDA, and will its temporary shuttering have any lasting effect beyond the government shutdown? Food-safety advocates worry that even a short-term lapse in the FDAs activities could be a notable setback for the agency. The FDA, in partnership with the states, inspects about 80 facilities a day, and theyre not sending people to do those routine inspections, says Caroline Smith DeWaal , the food safety director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Washington. She notes that individual state agencies, which actually conduct a large portion of inspections, will continue operating, but its unclear how long they can go on without federal oversight and the fees the FDA pays such agencies to conduct inspections on its behalf.