In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to “flatten the curve,” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is halting all routine surveillance inspections of facilities that manufacture food and other FDA-regulated products, the federal agency announced on March 18.
This change, which comes a week after the FDA announced the suspension of most foreign inspections, affects domestic inspections traditionally conducted every few years based on risk analysis.
In lieu of these inspections, the FDA is considering other ways to conduct inspectional work while maintaining public safety and protecting both factory and FDA staff. “This can include, among other things, evaluating records in lieu of conducting an onsite inspection on an interim basis when travel is not permissible, when appropriate,” FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which mainly oversees meat, poultry, and egg products, issued a statement on March 17 saying it would continue normal inspection services while working to ensure the safety of employees …. But approximately 77 percent of the U.S. food supply — including dairy, seafood, produce, processed and packaged foods, bottled water, and shelled eggs — is regulated by the FDA.