The North American Meat Processors Association confirmed on April 7 that the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will continue inspections despite a possible federal government shutdown.

"NAMP this morning [April 7] confirmed that FSIS headquarters yesterday told all district managers that all inspectors in the plant, all front line supervisors, and all EAIO’s are deemed ‘essential employees’ and should work as usual if the federal government shuts down at midnight Friday," the association said in a statement.

However, the association was seeking confirmation of the status of federal customs officials, according to NAMP.

Meanwhile, several industry associations wrote letters to President Obama urging the administration to classify meat and poultry inspectors as essential personnel to avoid any interruptions in the country's meat and poultry supplies.

“As the possibility of a government shutdown becomes more real so does the threat to the industry’s ability to provide a critical component of the food supply,” American Meat Institute President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle wrote.

“During past government shutdowns, USDA inspectors were classified as ‘essential’ personnel and not subject to work stoppage and the Office of Management and Budget has for many years deemed essential those employees whose ‘activities [are] essential to ensure continued public health and safety, including safe use of food, drugs, and hazardous materials,” he said.

Under federal law, meat and poultry plants may not operate without oversight from federal inspectors. Nearly 8,000 inspectors oversee 6,200 plants nationwide and ensure compliance with federal rules regarding product safety, labeling and humane treatment of livestock.

“Withdrawal of inspection services would be completely unnecessary and could cause havoc for our industry and for our customers and consumers across the country and around the world,” said a letter from Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation, and Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, to President Obama, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and key members of Congress.