Government shutdown threatens food safety inspections, funding for families’ nutrition

Early morning view of the US Capitol Building

Andy Feliciotti -

Statement of CSPI President Dr. Peter G. Lurie

The grim spectacle of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy trying to simultaneously appease a handful of extreme members in his caucus and preserve his speakership is enough to make anyone lose their appetite. 

But for anyone who eats, the prospect of a government shutdown is no joke. 

While the officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who inspect our meat and poultry are considered “essential” and will remain on the job in processing facilities, the picture is more complicated at the Food and Drug Administration, which inspects everything from infant formula to fresh produce to peanut butter. “Essential” investigators will be able to track down new or ongoing outbreaks. But the proactive FDA inspections we depend on to prevent contamination in the first place will likely be halted or curtailed, which may mean the agency fails to detect a food safety problem that could cause illness, hospitalization, or death. 

And while most benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would continue at least for the short term, the funding for other important food programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will run out much sooner, leaving 1.5 million babies in the country without access to this vital nutrition assistance, including for infant formula. 

The House FY24 agriculture spending bill not only significantly cuts key food and nutrition programs but includes industry-backed policy riders that would weaken school meals, the WIC program, and FDA’s sodium reduction work. We urge the House to support the bipartisan continuing resolution advancing in the Senate, which would at least keep the government open through mid-November. 

A government shutdown threatens to allow unsafe food into commerce and threatens nutrition assistance for some 7 million moms and babies on WIC. Why would Speaker McCarthy risk these consequences? He’s trying to appease the unappeasable, and the rest of us will have to pay the price. 

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