Gottlieb said he's considering recalling 10 percent of the food inspection team because it's "the right thing to do for public safety".
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees 80 percent of the US food supply, but under the GOP shutdown hundreds of food inspectors have been furloughed.
"The functions that can most directly impact consumer safety will continue, to the best of our abilities, subject to the legal and financial limitations of the current circumstances", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a tweet Tuesday.
"While food inspections of most of these facilities have halted due to the funding shortfall caused by the shutdown, Gottlieb says he is seeking to bring back enough workers to investigate high-risk facilities, which deal with sensitive foods such as seafood and cheese". He said about a third inspections are at places that handle high-risk foods.
One sign of FDA enforcement are the warning letters sent if problems are found during inspections. Factors that determine whether a food is more susceptible to contamination include the type of food, how it's made, and the facility's history of violations. "But there are 80k food facilities in the U.S.", Helena Bottemiller Evich, an agriculture reporter for Politico, noted. The agency said all imported foods will continue to be inspected and that critical functions, such as monitoring for food poisoning outbreaks, remain up and running. The outbreak appears to be over, and the FDA's investigation into it is ongoing.
He told the network the FDA would have some of its workforce work without pay in order to inspect "high risk food facilities". Restaurants are overseen by local health agencies. Sarah Sorscher, CSPI Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs said in a statement, "That puts our food supply at risk".
But the agency is skipping the 160-or-so routine food inspections it usually performs each week.