It looks like the sequester is coming.
We’re counting down the days to the March 1st deadline for implementing $85 billion in federal government spending cuts for the remainder of 2013.
Here’s how those cuts will impact food safety:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service monitors domestic production of meat, poultry, and egg products. It could furlough its entire workforce for two weeks. At a minimum it expects to furlough its costly meat inspection division.
The FDA conducts inspections at domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture food products. The agency expects to conduct 2,100 fewer inspections if sequestration slashes its budget.
Together, the budget reductions for these two agencies would increase the number and severity of safety incidents. Even when the FDA and the USDA-FSIS are fully-funded, we see 3,000 deaths and millions of cases of food-borne illness caused by pathogen-tainted foods. After March 1, expect to see a lot more.
One thing you can do is keep an eye on how your legislator is voting.
A new organization called Food Policy Action has released a food policy scorecard for every House member and senator. Each was given a grade, from zero to 100, based on every relevant floor vote that Congress has taken over the past two years. Their track records reflect votes taken on a range of food-related policy decisions including farm subsidies, animal welfare, genetically modified foods, school lunch programs, and food assistance.
The Food Policy Action Scorecard lets you search, sort, and rank by zip code, politician, party affiliation, and score.