FDA Reassures on Safety of U.S. Food Supply

March 26, 2020 | Marc S. Ullman | FDA | Legislation and Public Policy

Amidst concerns over the rapid spread of COVID-19, on March 24, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas issued a statement advising Americans that “there is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.” Yiannas noted that:

Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. This virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.

For these reasons, we do not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or withdrawn from the market for reasons related to the outbreak, even if a person who works in a human or animal food facility (e.g. a food packager) is confirmed to be positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Deputy Commissioner Yiannas advised that FDA is unaware of any problem with the nation’s food supply chain or of any food shortages anywhere. Issues with shortages of certain items such as canned goods are a matter or logistics and FDA is working with industry to develop a plan to address these issues.

Finally, companies were reminded of their obligation to protect their employees and the public by maintaining vigilant observation of all regulations relating to food safety, including cleaning and sanitizing of food surfaces and frequent handwashing and glove changing prior to the preparation of any food. Food companies with an employee testing positive for COVID-19 are advised to inform the rest of their workforce while maintaining confidentiality and to consult with their local health department for additional guidance.

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