The Food and Drug Administration said the United States isn’t experiencing any widespread food shortages amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) health emergency.
Also, to avoid potential disruptions in the food supply chain, the agency reported it will relax some requirements for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) supplier verification on-site audits.
The FDA said late Tuesday that it’s working closely with grocery industry and federal and state partners to monitor the food supply chain for any shortages.
“We are in regular contact with food manufacturers and grocery stores. There are no nationwide shortages of food, although in some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low before stores can restock,” the FDA stated. “Food production and manufacturing are widely dispersed throughout the U.S., and there are currently no widespread disruptions reported in the supply chain.”
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn (Photo courtesy of FDA)
Amid continued reports of shoppers emptying shelves of supermarkets and other stores to stock up on food, health care and other supplies, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn assured consumers that these items will be available and they don’t need to hoard.
“While we are confident that stores will remain open and supply will continue to meet demand nationwide, we ask all Americans to only purchase enough food and essentials for the week ahead,” Hahn said in a statement.
To keep the supply chain running, the FDA said yesterday it won’t enforce the FSMA on-site audit requirements if other appropriate supplier verification methods are used. Other methods, such as sampling and testing or a review of food safety records, would provide sufficient assurance that hazards have been significantly minimized or prevented during the on-site audit delay, the agency said.
“While our grocery stores are facing unprecedented demand, we are working with industry to minimize disruptions in the supply chain due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions,” Hahn commented.
Three rules created to implement FSMA — Preventive Controls for Human Food (PC Human Food), Preventive Controls for Animal Food (PC Animal Food) and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) — call for receiving facilities and importers to conduct supplier verification based on hazard analysis in their written Food Safety Plan (FSVP).
When these facilities and importers develop their FSVP, they may decide that on-site audits are the most appropriate supplier verification activity, but the travel restrictions and advisories related to coronavirus could make some audits impractical to conduct, the FDA explained.
“The policy released today will help to minimize disruptions so that the food industry can meet the demand while also continuing to conduct supplier verification activities that are designed to ensure food safety and following government travel restrictions and advisories,” Hahn stated.
The FDA said it expects receiving facilities and FSVP importers to resume on-site audits “within a reasonable period of time” after it becomes practical to do so, as well as to update their food safety plans and FSVPs accordingly. The agency added that it would provide timely notice before withdrawing the temporary FSMA supplier verification on-site audit policy.
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