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Imported Food Goes Unchecked Due To Furloughs

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- The furlough of food safety inspectors at the Food and Drug Administration means vast amounts of food is coming into the country unchecked.

Food safety inspectors are part of the 45 percent of FDA's staff that have been furloughed since the government shutdown Oct. 1.

Inspections for foreign-produced seafood aren't the only thing impacted by the shutdown; about half of all fruits and a fifth of all vegetables coming into the U.S. are going through unchecked.

In its shutdown plans released Sept. 30, the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA, said all routine inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, notification programs, and the monitoring of imports would be suspended due to furloughs.

'Eat Local' food supporters, including executive chef Steve Bunner at 1892 East in Five Points, say buying food from local suppliers gives you a better understanding of how the food is being produced. 1892 East attempts to only use food from the region, something that allows his kitchen to asks questions of the supplier.

The shutdown does not impact work being done by health and agriculture departments on the state level, however. Bunner says knowing there are still checks in place for food produced inside the country is just good business.

(WHNT News 19 news partner The Huntsville Times contributed to this report)