The North American Meat Processors Association says USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has confirmed that all front-line inspectors and all enforcement, investigations and analysis officers have been deemed "essential employees" and will continue to work if the federal government shuts down at midnight Friday. Most other management personnel are not deemed essential and would not report to work.
The American Meat Institute and others previously pressed the White House to deem inspectors essential to prevent closures of thousands of plants, which cannot legally operate without federal inspection. The AMI quotes economist John Dunham of John Dunham and Associates saying some 3.7 million people face work stoppage and the industry was looking at a loss of $3 billion in economic activity per day.
Nearly 8,000 inspectors oversee 6,200 plants nationwide and ensure compliance with federal rules requiring that products are safe, wholesome and properly labeled and that livestock are treated humanely. Only the nuclear power industry has as much federal oversight and on-site presence as U.S. meat and poultry plants.