E-coli outbreaks crop up every now and then. Some are more widespread then others, but if they're related to food and especially if that food may have crossed state lines, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) starts tracing to find the source. If foodborne bacteria cause an outbreak in the US today, though, the FDA won't do anything. Because the FDA is closed.
FDA food safety inspectors are furloughed right now and have been all week. Which, as Quartz explains, is problematic because, in addition to finding the source of outbreaks, the FDA also monitors 80 per cent of all US food and especially imports. And don't think for a second that the food safety inspectors at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention aren't on furlough too, because they are.
Fruits, vegetables, seafood and and basically anything else that comes through US customs isn't being safety checked by the FDA right now. And the agency has a pretty extensive system of "red alerts" to keep track of companies and shipment sources with a bad track record, but no one is referring to that information right now. So if you're one of the tens of thousands of vendors on FDA "red alert" for anything from excrement-ladened produce to dietary supplements also containing mad cow disease, this is your chance to sell to the US. Got lead-ladened candy? Come on in!
Quartz outlines the situation with shrimp (aka prawns in more sensible parts of the world):
Take shrimp for example. Americans now eat 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg) a year, way more than any other type of seafood. Some 90% of that is imported, much of it from Thailand, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.
So consistently has shrimp imported from those four countries arrived already decomposed, covered in filth or teeming with salmonella, that FDA flags all shipments as "red alerts" (companies are exempted only after demonstrating health standard compliance).
The states still have health authorities to address local problems and the FDA will handle "high-risk recalls" if they come up, but the longer the shutdown drags on, the more the situation compounds itself. So basically just don't eat until the shutdown is over and then for a few weeks after that and you'll be safe. Awesome, thanks. [Quartz]