The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended routine facility inspections on a temporary basis to limit unnecessary exposure during heightened coronavirus concerns in the U.S. The announcement came shortly after FDA declared the agency would be postponing most foreign inspections. There has been no indication as to when routine inspections would be resuming.
“That is one area where there has been or will be a regulatory pause. That’s not to say that inspections won’t occur,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of Western Agricultural Processors Association. “Certainly, for-cause inspections, or where there’s a problem, absolutely those will occur. But the ongoing, random inspections right now are going to be put on hold until this thing has turned around.”
FDA will continue monitoring and responding to any public health emergencies related to FDA-regulated products. Other non-portable activities including certain lab activities and monitoring imported products will also continue. The decision was made in the interest of limiting the potential risk of exposure of inspectors as well as facility employees. “Most of our operations have already gone to a ‘no visitor’ policy right now until this is resolved. So, this is just a way to try to limit the exposure not only to their employees, but to our employees and our workers,” Isom noted.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will also be holding off on routine facility inspections for compliance with the Produce Safety Rule. CDFA will be following the lead of FDA in only performing inspections of a critical nature and when there is cause for inspection. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn has said that the agency has “full confidence in the safety and quality” of American products that continue to be produced.
“We still want to provide a safe food product, that’s first and foremost. It always has been and always will be a priority for us, so we’re not taking our foot off the accelerator when it comes to food safety,” Isom explained. “We’re still going to be doing that and doing what’s necessary to protect the food supply.”