Oct. 9, 2013 at 1:23 PM ET
Add this to the list of things we should be doing in the dark, embarrassing days since the government shutdown began: carefully choosing and preparing the foods we're eating. That's because (as we already noted) many of the Food and Drug Administration’s food inspectors have temporarily found themselves out of work—and their work is the routine inspections of our food. That means we've got to be doubly vigilant inspectors of our own food these days, avoiding or being extra watchful about some foods in particular. Here's a sampling of what to look out for:
Domestic shrimp is OK, but shrimp from other countries often arrives unfit for our consumption and is rejected by inspectors, according to a rather lurid report in Quartz. Even creepier, should unfit food reach consumers and sicken some people with salmonella, the FDA—which would normally step in to keep other people from eating more dangerous food—would also be helpless to mitigate the situation. So if you don't know where your shrimp is coming from, avoid it altogether. (And if you can choose, as in clearly labeled shrimp in a grocery store, pick American.)
Much of the tilapia that arrives in this country is rejected for being unsafe for our consumption, with some of those rejections detailed in this FDA report. So if you're making a meal of the stuff, make sure you know where it comes from: You might choose to avoid anything from outside the U.S. until the inspectors come back on duty.
Especially if you plan to consume your fruits and veggies without cooking them, you should be extra vigilant, according to AllGov, which reports that about half of fresh fruit and 20 percent of veggies we consume in this country are imported. Make sure you wash and rinse thoroughly before eating; now's not the time for a quick run under the tap and a "good enough" shrug-off .
Obviously, avoiding undercooked chicken is an important policy in general, but now it's especially important to be vigilant. The Food Safety and Inspection Service issued an alert on Tuesday after salmonella traced to Foster Farms chicken sickened 278 people in 18 states. The notice said the outbreak is continuing, according to NBC News. But no recall has been ordered without sufficient data, according to Politico. The Center for Disease Control handles such outbreaks, but—you guessed it—much of its staff has been furloughed. So be extra careful when preparing chicken these days—and that goes for your hands, cutting board, knife and entire kitchen too.
Have you changed the way you eat and shop for food during the shutdown?
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.