October 13, 2020

Consumer Reports Letter to USDA Outlines Recommendations For Safety

Consumer Reports letter to USDA outlines recommendations to ensure the safety of food products during the COVID-19 pandemic. This emergency has put pressure on the food chain, and personnel numbers have dwindled as more shelter in place orders have been put in place.

Consumer Reports Letter to USDA Outlines Recommendations For Safety

 

The agency wants the USDA to commit to several points that Consumer Reports thinks will ensure the safety and availability of food during this time.

First, the USDA should publicize the number of USDA-FSIS personnel testing positive or getting sick with the symptoms of COVID-19 as they occur. Consumers deserve to know that the number of inspectors may be dwindling as the pandemic continues.

Second, they want USDA to ensure that food inspectors and workers are safe. Many food production jobs are considered essential, so these people can’t shelter at home but must go to work at plants and processing establishments. The USDA should also determine whether a facility’s Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure is adequate to respond to the pandemic. Inspectors and industry personnel must be protective. If there are problems, the government should work with industry to implement corrections.

Third, the USDA should emphasize monitoring of establishment prevention plans. A company’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans must be in place and the facility must comply. If staffing levels drop below a number considered safe, USDA must make sure that this lack of personnel doesn’t affect compliance.

And fourth, Consumer reports says the USDA must dedicate new resources to food safety. Additional funding given to the USDA by Congress for COVID-19 response should be allocated toward inspection and food safety tasks.

The last thing this country needs at this time is a large multi-state foodborne illness outbreak. While consumers are the last line of defense against illness, processor and producers bear the responsibility of selling food that is wholesome and safe to eat.

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