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CDC, FDA Forced to Furlough Staff in Face of Federal Government Shutdown

Oct 7, 2013

The current federal shutdown has again hit regulatory agencies, including those established to protect the public health — and as traditional cold and flu season are upon us, potential repercussions of reductions are not very comforting.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have had to slash staff —putting members on furlough — as the government shutdown continues, according to NBC News.

The latest shutdown, albeit described as only a "partial" one, has affected these two agencies, prompting them to stretch their already strained resources. NBC suggests that the shutdown could impact the CDC’s or FDA’s response to any sudden outbreaks of major disease or food poisoning.

NBC reports that each agency has issued the following furloughs: About 8,700 of the CDC’s 13,000 employees are off the job; and some 6,600 of the FDA’s 15,000 are also on furlough.

The CDC is designed to identify public health epidemics, especially outbreaks of disease or illnesses. As we enter cold and flu season, the CDC is traditionally more active than at any other time of year, according to our reports.

The FDA is charged with identifying contaminated foodstuffs in the domestic and imported food supply and informing the public of any food poisoning outbreaks. The FDA is also charged with conducting inspections at food processor and producer facilities, holding the companies accountable for safety and cleanliness conditions.

Our previous accounts have shown that the FDA, especially, was already understaffed, to the extent that it has had difficulty performing its assigned duties even before the government shutdown was in place.

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