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FDA officials reassure Americans no food shortages exist

By Jessie Higgins
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials assured the American public that no food shortages exist. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/8d7592268104436ca03e912a8f1cc37a/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials assured the American public that no food shortages exist. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

EVANSVILLE, Ind., March 18 (UPI) -- U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials assured the American public Wednesday that the food supply will remain safe and uninterrupted during the coronavirus pandemic.

"There are no food shortages," Frank Yiannas, the deputy commissioner of the FDA's Office of Food Policy and Response, said during a conference call with food industry leaders.

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"We, and when I say we, I mean all of us, must continue to reassure and remind the American people that there is no need to hoard food, that they should only buy what they need for their families for a week or so," Yiannas said.

"Food production and food manufacturing are widely dispersed through the U.S. There are currently no widespread disruptions," he said.

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Yiannas acknowledged that some food manufacturers or distributors could face challenges moving food in areas of strict quarantine.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will work to ensure food still can be adequately moved across the country, said Susan Mayne, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

"We want to do everything possible to make sure that food and ag continue production, manufacturing, without hindrance, because it is a critical sector," Mayne said.

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There is no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through food or food packaging, Mayne added. So, while food processing facilities should carefully guard the health and safety of employees, the FDA does not intend to recall foods because an employee somewhere along the supply chain becomes sick.

"This is not a foodborne gastrointestinal virus," Yiannas said. "It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food. It's much more likely that an infected person will spread the virus through person-to-person transmission,rather than contaminated food or food packaging."

Also during the call, Michael Rogers, the assistant commissioner for human and animal food operations, announced that the FDA has suspended all routine surveillance inspections at domestic food production facilities and only will conduct "mission critical" inspections for the foreseeable future.

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"The safety of the food supply is a shared responsibility between the regulators and the industry," Rogers said. "And during this period, quite frankly, I think we'll be leveraging even more the role that industry has to ensure that the food supply is safe for all consumers."

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