With around 7,000 of its 17,000 employees furloughed, the Food and Drug Administration is not able to carry out many of its regular activities, such as some domestic food safety inspections, commissioner Scott Gottlieb told NBC News in an interview published Wednesday.
“It’s not business as usual, and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances. There are important things we are not doing,” Gottlieb told NBC News.
He told the network the FDA would have some of its workforce work without pay in order to inspect “high risk food facilities.”
“For me to do that, it would require calling back about 10 percent of our inspection force [of roughly 5,000 inspectors],” Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb tweeted Monday that, under normal circumstances, “we’d typically do about 160 domestic food inspections each week, and about 1/3 of those would be considered high risk.”
Note: We’re still doing ALL of our regular foreign food inspections. But, on the domestic side, in rough numbers we’d typically do about 160 domestic food inspections each week, and about 1/3 of those would be considered high risk.
— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 9, 2019
He said the FDA was “taking steps” to “expand” its domestic inspections “to make sure we continue inspecting high risk food facilities.”
The FDA is still doing “ALL of our regular foreign food inspections,” Gottlieb said, telling NBC News: “We’re doing everything we can to try to maintain our basic consumer protection role. That’s our focus.”