Here’s the thing: We know why the United States Department of Agriculture took its site down — like many other agencies during the government shutdown, it’s closed for business. But while other agencies have opted to simply stop updating their sites and keep information available, the USDA is making it awfully hard to find any of its information on safety and recalls.
The bad news is that it’s not easy to find what you’re looking for — it’s not every consumer, after all, who knows to type in “FSIS” for Food Safety and Inspection service. Especially when faced with this unhelpful message on the USDA site:
Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.
After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.
The site doesn’t redirect users to where one might find any of the USDA’s info from before the shutdown began on Oct. 1, and only includes links to available government services, the White House’s contingency plans and a message from the President.
The good news is that the information is still there to be found (although if a batch of meat is discovered to be bad right this minute, there’s ostensibly no one to update that information): For information you might actually want or need, head to the FSIS site which is not being updated but still has info consumers might need.
There’s a list of key contacts on the FSIS site, but no one is picking up the phone at the listed numbers, and the Meat & Poultry hotline has a recording letting callers know that the agency is on hold. That recording at least directs consumers to the FSIS.
You can also check out recent recalls and alerts at the FDA site here.
It’s not like we’re entirely shocked — after all, there are two different agencies ruling over open-faced and regular sandwiches — but we’ve got to question the USDA’s decision to post only a political message instead of redirecting people somewhere they could actually get valuable information.