No USDA inspectors mean food plants could shut down

NOBLESVILLE – Frank Violi is the president and owner of Butterfield Foods in Noblesville. He produces food in bulk then packs it and ships it to restaurants and supermarkets.

“We make soups, sauces, side dishes, cooked protein and salads,” said Violi.

If he’s making a product with meat that will be shipped across state lines, a USDA food inspector must be on site to supervise the production.

“But they also inspect your paperwork to make sure we’re complying with all food safety regulations that the government has plus all of the programs we have written up to demonstrate we’re in compliance with the government,” Violi said.

But there’s a problem looming. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it has to cut$ 2 billion from its budget because of the federal sequester. To do that, it would have furlough USDA food inspectors—a move that could affect the food supply.

“What I’m concerned about is what would happen to the packing plants that send us the beef that we buy because they’re USDA inspected facilities as well,” said Violi, who wonders about a food disruption along the food chain.

“This is pretty ridiculous because the way the laws are written we can’t operate and produce meat to ship across state lines unless we have USDA food safety personnel on site and if the government is not going to allow them to do their job, we can’t comply with the law which means we’re shut down which is pretty ridiculous,” Violi said.

That could mean higher prices for consumers. Violi hopes it doesn’t come to that and Congress makes a deal.

“Exactly, just work it out,” said Violi.

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