The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going to restart high-risk food inspections this week despite the partial government shutdown, which has forced the FDA to suspend most routine domestic food facility inspections.
"We are re-starting high risk food inspections as early as tomorrow," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted on Monday, noting that the inspections will be performed by employees who have agreed to come back to work unpaid.
We re-starting high risk food inspections as early as tomorrow. We'll also do compounding inspections this week. And we started sampling high risk imported produce in the northeast region today. We'll expand our footprint as the week progresses. Our teams are working.— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) January 14, 2019
The shutdown hit its 24th day on Monday, after it became the longest shutdown in U.S. history on Saturday.
“It’s going to be hundreds of inspectors who were furloughed who are coming back to work,” Gottlieb told NBC News.
Gottlieb last week told The Washington Post that he was seeking to bring back enough workers to investigate high-risk facilities, which deal with sensitive foods such as seafood and cheese.
High-risk facility inspections account for one-third of the roughly 160 inspections the FDA typically performs per week, the Post reported.
Investigators during these routine checks typically look for unclean conditions, bug infestations and harmful contaminations.
Gottlieb called the response from FDA inspectors "overwhelming and outstanding."
Forty percent of the agency's operations are covered by Congress, while 60 percent is funded by user fees.
The agency, which oversees the majority of the country's food supply, is still reportedly inspecting foreign manufacturers and producers involved in recalls or outbreaks.