Thursday, May 21, 2020

Farms, packinghouses now under Defense Production Act

The U.S. Department of Agriculture now has the authority under the Defense Production Act to help prevent supply interruptions at Food and Drug Administration-regulated food facilities, including farms, packinghouses and fresh-cut processing facilities. In theory, USDA could force produce facilities to stay open even if state or local officials want plants to close because of a spike COVID-19 cases. Building off an executive order in late April aimed at keeping meat processing plants open, the USDA and FDA signed a memorandum of understanding that gives USDA authority over FDA-regulated foods, including fruits and vegetables. “This action is another in a series of proactive steps the USDA and FDA have taken to maximize food availability following unprecedented disruptions the COVID-19 pandemic has caused to food supply chains that have been established and refined for decades,” the USDA and FDA said in a statement attributed to Mindy Brashears, under secretary for food safety for USDA, and Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response. USDA regulates food safety of meat, poultry and eggs, while the FDA covers all other food, including fruits and vegetables. The USDA/FDA statement said outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers at food resource facilities or among harvesting crews could lead to reduction in production capacity...MORE

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