A word on consuming food safely during the government shutdown of 2019

Samantha Scetta – Editor-in-Chief

In a few words, food is not considered “safe” to eat during the government shutdown.

Yes, you read that right. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one of many governmental organizations that has not been operating since Dec. 22 due to the shutdown, and it is one that affects every American who does not consume entirely homegrown food.

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, some high risk inspections were continued– by unpaid FDA workers. This is unethical in itself, as there are foods that will go uninspected by any FDA worker, and the food that does get inspected will be done by an individual not being compensated for it.

Catherine Donnelly, a professor at the University of Vermont and expert on the microbiological safety of food, stated that “Consumers should continue to have confidence in those brand names that they trust and the willingness of companies to do the right thing in providing them with safe food.” She adds that the responsibility mainly lies in the companies producing the food to ensure their safety.

Companies may be inspecting their food, but mistakes are ever present, especially with the recent E. coli outbreaks in 2018 which affected approximately 290 people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA being shut down for an extended period of time will only potentially increase foodborne illnesses, and perhaps be the start of an epidemic related to illnesses that result from contaminated food.

In short, the question of “So what can I eat?” poses a very long and complicated answer, entirely dependent on who you are asking. In situations such as these, common sense and being more careful with food contamination works best.

Graphics courtesy of Food Safety Magazine

As always, thoroughly wash your vegetables, be wary when consuming undercooked meat, and don’t consume anything that smells/feels questionable.

Below is a list of the most high risk foods for consumers due to their tendency to become contaminated:

  • Raw sprouts
  • Raw/Unpasteurized milk and juices
  • Pre- Packaged salads, fruits, and vegetables
  • Leafy greens
  • Ground meat
  • Raw eggs