The United States is a land of plenty even in the chaos of the coronavirus, US federal health officials said last Thursday.
State-by-State lockdowns may have created a rush on some items in grocery stores, but the food supply chains remain strong and shelves should soon be restocked, according to Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“What we have just experienced is an artificial rush in sudden demand. I call it the equivalent of having 7 Thanksgiving holidays all in 1 weekend,” Commish Yiannas said during a Thursday media briefing.
The US food supply system relies on “just-in-time inventory, and they weren’t prepared for this unexpected rush in demand,” he said.
Commish Yiannas urged people to stick to their regular buying patterns when visiting the grocery store.
“There is no need to hoard,” he said. “People should buy what they normally buy, a week or 2 of groceries, and leave some for others.”
“Speaking personally, I have had the same experience I suspect some of you have had. You have gone to your grocery store and you’ve seen some shelves empty,” Commish Yiannas said. “But based on our communication with the industry, we understand this is largely an issue of unprecedented demand, not a lack of capacity to produce, process or deliver foods. Manufacturers and retailers alike are working around the clock to replenish shelves.”
Major US agencies like the FDA, the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security (HHS) are all collaborating to monitor the food supply chain and keep food flowing to restaurant kitchens and grocery shelves.
Last week they issued temporary guidance that allows foods destined for restaurants to be diverted to grocery stories, even if the products do not have the proper labeling, like Nutrition Facts boxes.
Delivery and pickup services are only a fraction of restaurants’ normal traffic, and ingredients destined for those businesses is “food we certainly do not want to go to waste,” Commish Yiannas said.
He added that people do not have to worry about contracting COVID-19 from their food.
“There is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19,” Commish Yiannas said. “This is not a foodborne gastrointestinal virus like norovirus or hepatitis.”
Respiratory viruses like the novel coronavirus tend to attach to cells in the lungs, but cannot survive acid in the stomach like foodborne pathogens, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“This is a respiratory virus.“
Worried people can use disinfectant wipes on food products entering their home, but frequent hand-washing is probably a better way to prevent disease spread.
Have a healthy weekend, stay at home!