It’s estimated that, due to a government shutdown, around 41% of FDA staff are currently not working. According to the agency, the operations are to “continue to the extent permitted by law”.
This means that “activities necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life and activities [are] funded by carryover user fee funds.”
But is this enough to ensure the public is protected properly? According to the FDA’s website, it is. The agency has issued messages on their website and across social media, saying that the current staffing levels are enough to provide an adequate service.
They say that, currently, they are able to respond to any outbreaks or food recalls when needed. In addition to this, they have the right to call staff back to work in emergency cases.
However, employees have raised concerns that, despite the FDA’s best efforts, the levels of staff in some departments could lead to a public safety issue. For instance, if an outbreak occurs, the employees that are currently available may not be able to deal with it to the standard expected.
Furthermore, many are worried that this could have a long-term impact, as many of their colleagues are considering leaving their jobs altogether, due to a lack of security and financial losses.
In a statement, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said:
“There is no question this has an impact, and it is not business as usual. There is a very concerted effort to stand up critical functions and to focus on our consumer protection mission, in many cases relying on excepted employees not being paid.”
“Wherever we can, we will look at the safety mission first and foremost, but you know what will happen is that more of the routine work and more of the day-to-day review work will slow down. A lot of it slowed down already.”