The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been working to enhance food supply chain protections in response to COVID-19. The agencies have issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure that FDA-regulated food facilities continue operating, in line with Executive Order 13917 that was initiated back in April.
“The MOU creates a process for the two agencies to make determinations about circumstances in which the USDA could exercise its authority under the Defense Production Act (DPA) with regard to certain domestic food resource facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods, as well as to those that grow or harvest food that fall within the FDA’s jurisdiction,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears and FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas said in a press announcement.
The FDA will continue to collaborate with state and local officials as well as public health partners and industry members in efforts to keep the food supply chain safe and operational. The MOU dictates that FDA will remain responsible for the agency’s regulatory duties in regard to food production and will alert USDA when issues arise that may require the agency to exercise its DPA authority.
“This is an important preparedness effort as we are approaching peak harvesting seasons, when many fruits and vegetables grown across the U.S. are sent to be frozen or canned,” said Brashears and Yiannas. “We are extremely grateful to essential workers for everything they do every day to keep our pantries, refrigerators and freezers stocked.”
The announcement to strengthen food supply chain protections comes after several disruptions have been caused by COVID-19 complications. The MOU provides for increased cooperation among agencies and other officials in keeping workers involved in food production safe while maintaining a functional supply chain. The increased regulatory collaboration should allow for improved safety measures to be implemented without further straining the supply chain.