Mar 17, 2020
USDA ‘rising to meet the challenges’ of COVID-19
Stephen Kloosterman

Top USDA officials March 16 said they’re working on food safety issues related to the new coronavirus.

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, as of March 16 had been linked to 6,606 deaths by the Worldwide Health Organization. Efforts in some U.S. states to slow the virus from spreading quickly have included shutting down schools, sporting events and other large social gatherings.

The USDA’s people also are very busy, wrote Mindy Brashears, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Greg Ibach, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

“We can assure you that the agencies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply from farm to fork,” Brashears and Ibach said in a released statement.

Read their full statement below:

Statement to Industry

March 16, 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is rising to meet the challenges associated with the new coronavirus disease, Covid-19. As leaders of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Agricultural Marketing Service, we can assure you that the agencies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply from farm to fork.

These agencies are prepared to utilize their authority and all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations. Field personnel will be working closely with establishment management and state and local health authorities to handle situations as they arise in your community. As always, communication between industry and government will be key. We are all relying on early and frequent communication with one another to overcome challenges as they arise.

In this time of much uncertainty, we know that many of you have questions about how the department will continue to ensure that grading and inspection personnel are available. We have all seen how consumers have reacted to the evolving coronavirus situation and how important access to food is to a sense of safety and wellbeing. It is more important than ever that we assure the American public that government and industry will take all steps necessary to ensure continued access to safe and wholesome USDA-inspected products.

As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health.

Dr. Mindy Brashears

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

Greg Ibach

USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs

Above, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP) Greg Ibach Photo: USDA/Lance Cheung.


Stephen Kloosterman is the managing editor of Fruit Growers News.
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