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USDA and FDA Address Equipment Shortages to Protect Nation’s Food Supply

On Friday, May 22, 2020, the USDA and FDA jointly released recommendations to address shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), cloth face coverings, disinfectants, and sanitation supplies in the food and agriculture industries. These supplies are critical for worker safety, the continuity of the food supply, food safety, and employee/consumer confidence.

The recommendations, which can be seen here, call for prioritization of supplies first to the Health Care and Public Health as well as the Emergency Services sectors, and then to the Food and Agriculture sectors, including food manufacturers/producers, suppliers, and facilities that store, process and/or market agricultural products, grocery stores, food retailers, food service, and food storage and distribution.

The recommendations also provide information on potential sourcing of supplies including through private sector suppliers and state emergency management agencies. Specifically, FDA and USDA provide the following “considerations when attempting to source supplies”:

  • First, continue working with usual and alternate private-sector suppliers to obtain PPE, cloth face coverings, disinfectants, and sanitation supplies, though it may be necessary to identify multiple options for suppliers and prioritize near-term versus long-term needs.
  • If suppliers are unable to provide for these needs, and the PPE and/or cloth face coverings are urgently needed, FDA and USDA recommend that a request be submitted to the state emergency management agency. And if that state emergency management agency is unable to address the PPE and/or cloth face-covering shortfall, the state should submit a request for support to its FEMA Regional Response Center.
  • Any requests to state or federal agencies should describe
    • Specific types, quantities (include 30-, 60-, and 90-day demand), and locations where the PPE is needed;
    • Estimated time until the shortage has an impact on operations based on the PPE burn rate; and
    • The consequence of the shortage on the supply of food, agricultural commodities or agricultural suppliers or distributors and the anticipated duration of the impact.

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