Your food is safe... but that could change if partial federal govt. shutdown continues

Nothing looks amiss in the vegetable aisle at the Wheatsville Co-op in the midst of the government shutdown (CBS Austin)

Nothing looks amiss in the vegetable aisle at the Wheatsville Co-op in the midst of the government shutdown. But shopper Gari Wier is very aware that federal food safety inspectors are not on the job. "I have a lot of concerns about it, but I'm hungry. I want to eat," she said.

It was only this week, the fourth week of the shutdown, that the FDA resumed some food inspections. And those inspectors are not being paid.

Andrew Tyndall is the CEO of Safeway Certifications, a nationwide program headquartered here in Austin. "We primarily do food safety training programs," he said. The shutdown, so far, is an inconvenience. "The largest part of our program is enforcement, and enforcement comes from the inspectors," Tyndall said. "If inspectors aren't in the field, there's no enforcement. If there's no enforcement, then people aren't doing training."

The Texas Department of State Health Services says right now, state inspectors can handle it, but if the shutdown goes on too long, or if there's an outbreak of food borne illness -- it's a problem. Tyndall agrees. "In the long term, if you continue to have inspectors not on site, not doing inspections, you'll see food safety start to slip," he said.

Meantime, back at the store, Wier says she's doing her best. "What are you going to do about it? Frozen? Those are the same inspectors."

"Wash your greens, wash your hands. Do what you can," she said.

Those food safety inspectors are not the only federal workers going without paychecks. Austin Energy says federal workers can contact them for help, even if they've been disconnected. A spokeswoman said via email, "If City of Austin Utilities receives a call from a customer stating that they are directly affected by the government shutdown, here is how we can help:

  • Postpone collection activity for 30 days
  • Evaluate if the customer is eligible for assistance through some of our Customer Assistance Programs
  • If affected customer was disconnected due to nonpayment, service will be restored

If the government shutdown lasts more than 30 days, the City will re-evaluate each affected customer's accounts."

Federal employees can get food from the Central Texas Food Bank, which has food pantries throughout Central Texas.

Visit Central Texas Food Bank's website to find a food pantry near you, or if you can, to donate or volunteer.

The Society for St. Vincent de Paul has client hours at their 901 W. Braker address Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. -2 p.m. You can ask any questions about rent or utility or other financial issues during client hours, and then refer you for a home visit and consideration for financial help. Saturdays, they have a food pantry from 9 a.m. to noon. You can also email for help. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also could use donations and volunteers to keep up with the need. You can find that information on their website.

For federal workers who receive City of Kyle utility services, their Utility Billing Department may be able to help with a deferment plan.

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