Statement of CSPI Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs Sarah Sorscher

Today, the Senate voted down two proposals to end the partial government shutdown that is now the longest in American history.

Tomorrow, the men and women at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration who have dedicated their careers to keeping our food free of animal feces, filth, and foodborne pathogens will face their second missed paycheck. These are public servants, but they are also human beings. We cannot expect them to continue to work indefinitely to protect our food without the income they need to sustain their families.

America’s food system can no longer remain a hostage in this political battle. The FDA has made enormous efforts to restart limited high-risk inspections in the face of what FDA Commissioner Gottlieb recently called “one of the biggest operational challenges in FDA’s modern history.” Yet even now, the commissioner estimates that fewer than half of the agency’s food safety inspectors are back on the job. What’s more, warning-letter postings are not being done and long-term efforts to prevent future outbreaks are being dangerously disrupted.

This is no way to run a country. We urge President Trump and Congress to reopen the federal government immediately, extending full funding and back pay to all federal employees and contractors. Negotiations over funding for immigration and border security should be carried out after normal operations have resumed.