Washington, D.C.May 27, 2020 – Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent a letter to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D., today on the agency’s efforts to maintain food safety and address food supply disruptions in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
FDA oversees nearly 80 percent of the food supply in the U.S. Although COVID-19 is not known to spread through food, the potential spread of harmful foodborne pathogens does not stop while the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. Already this year, FDA has begun two investigations into foodborne pathogen outbreaks that have resulted in 87 illnesses and four deaths. Following FDA’s suspension of routine inspections in March, however, the average number of inspections per month dropped from 900 to just eight in April.
“Consumer protection advocates are concerned this reduction makes an already weak inspection system even weaker, while other experts believe the ultimate impact will be limited as the food companies themselves are the primary testers, not FDA, in assessing the safety of its product,” Pallone and DeGette wrote. “We too are concerned about the impact the suspension of inspections will have on the safety of our nation’s food supply, and want to know more about how FDA is preparing for the inspections to resume.”
The Committee leaders also expressed concern in their letter over reports of the pandemic’s impact on food supply chains.
“The pandemic has also severely disrupted food supply chains. We are disturbed by reports of farms destroying millions of pounds of foods they can no longer sell due to closures of schools and businesses, while, at the same time millions of Americans who have lost their jobs are facing food insecurity,” the Committee leaders continued. “This is alarming and we request information about how FDA is monitoring and addressing supply chain issues.”
Given the ongoing threats COVID-19 poses to food safety and the global food supply chain, the Committee leaders requested answers to a series of questions by June 10, 2020, including:
- What information or guidelines will FDA use to determine when to restart routine in-person surveillance of domestic food manufacturing facilities and inspections of foreign food facilities or imports?
- How is FDA monitoring supply chain disruptions that result in food loss and waste, and working with food producers to mitigate such losses?
To read the full letter, click HERE.