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The USDA Could Soon Be the Only National Federal Food Safety Agency

The USDA Could Soon Be the Only National Federal Food Safety Agency

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The current administration aims to consolidate all agencies responsible for keeping food safe across the nation under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On the heels of many serious recent food-related illnesses America's system of keeping food safe could soon be changing. The president has announced a new plan that would bring all of the federal groups responsible for food together under one roof: The U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Currently, there are two major federal agencies in charge of regulating food safety—the USDA (which includes the Food Safety and Inspection Service), and the Food and Drug Administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention support food safety efforts at both agencies, but is not officially responsible for maintaining safety.

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Each agency is responsible for different facets of safety within the food industry. Eggs, for example, are governed by the FDA as long as they're in their shells. If they are open or in liquid form (such as a box of egg whites), the FSIS is responsible for ensuring safe conditions.

But President Trump's plan would eliminate many of the intricate responsibilities of multiple agencies and the "inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination and inefficient use of resources," according to the White House's published proposal.

The previous administration, under President Obama, also attempted to shuffle the federal agencies in charge of food safety into one larger group headed up by the FDA in 2015. While Congress did not grant approval to restructure the agencies at the time, President Trump is seeking the same authority through his "Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century" initiative.

Many public health organizations have previously called for a new, more-unified regulation system over the years, including the Government Accountability Office of Congress as well as the National Academies of Science and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The proposal put forth by the current administration would combining FSIS and the FDA into one agency known as "the Federal Food Safety Agency," according to the Office of Executive Management and Budget.

More than $2.2 billion is spent each year on keeping food safe in America, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The USDA has more than 9,200 employees with a budget of around $1 billion, and the FDA employs 5,000 individuals with a budget closer to $1.3 billion. But the new proposal is not clear what the overall effect would be on the budget or number of employees.

Photo: Dan Dalton/Getty Images

“USDA is well poised to house the Federal Food Safety Agency,” the new proposal reads. “USDA is a strong leader in food safety; has a thorough understanding of food safety risks and issues all along the farm to fork continuum, and many agencies with USDA focus on food safety.”

In addition to regulating food, the USDA houses the Agricultural Research Service, which conducts safety research to influence food safety practices set forth by both FSIS and the FDA. The agency also monitors animals on farms, animal health across the food industry, and the influence of pesticides on crops.

If the president is successful in passing this new proposal, the FDA would become the "Federal Drug Administration," refocusing on regulating prescription medication, tobacco, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and medical devices.

Critics of the new proposal are wary of the decision to place regulatory power solely within the USDA, given that this agency is also tasked by the government to promote and grow the domestic agriculture industry—which could potentially create conflicts of interest, or influence how the agency drafts policy.

In the past, other solutions have been drafted by state representatives such as U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, to create a new agency that is independent from all those currently responsible, according to Food Safety News.

The reorganization of federal food agencies, among others, began in February 2017 when the president issued an executive order to begin the process—according to this proposal, the Office of the President will be tasking Congress to begin considering this initial plan for implementation over the summer.

Crediting Coconut, Hominy, Corn Masa, and Masa Harina in the Child Nutrition Programs

This memorandum rescinds and replaces SP 22-2019, CACFP 09-2019, SFSP 08-2019 Crediting Coconut, Hominy, Corn Masa, and Corn Flour in the Child Nutrition Programs. This updated memorandum provides guidance on crediting coconut (including dried coconut), hominy, corn masa, and masa harina and clarifies how to identify popular products made from corn that can credit towards the grain requirements in the child nutrition programs (CNPs), including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

Prior to April 17, 2019, when the previous memorandum was published, coconut and hominy did not meet the requirement for any component in the meal patterns but could be served as an “extra” food. Based on stakeholder feedback, and to meet the growing and diverse cultural needs of our program participants, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has updated food-crediting guidance to allow coconut and hominy to credit in the CNPs. Additionally, in this memorandum, FNS is updating and clarifying our crediting guidance for corn masa, masa harina, corn flour, and cornmeal. The attached Questions and Answers provide more information about crediting these foods in the CNPs.


Fresh, frozen, and dried coconut can be used to enhance the taste and presentation of salads, smoothies, and other dishes served with meals or as snacks. Recognizing its versatility, program operators now may credit fresh or frozen coconut as a fruit based on volume served. Dried coconut now credits as a fruit at twice the volume served. Like other fruits, at least 1/8 cup of fresh, frozen, or dried coconut must be served to credit toward the fruit component. Coconut water, labeled as containing 100-percent juice, can credit toward the fruit component as juice per volume served. Please note that coconut flour and coconut oil are not creditable in the CNPs.

Menu planners must consider coconut’s caloric and saturated fat content, which may limit its frequency of use in school menus due to the dietary specifications for calories and saturated fat.

As a point of clarification, because it is now creditable as a fruit in the NSLP and SBP, fresh coconut also may be served in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.


Hominy is traditionally served in Mexican and Native American cultures as a vegetable or as a milled grain product (e.g., hominy grits). Based on its multiple uses and widespread appeal, hominy may now credit towards the vegetable or grain component in a reimbursable meal or snack.

Program operators now may credit hominy as follows:

  • ¼ cup of canned, drained hominy or cooked, whole hominy (from dried hominy)
  • credits as ¼ cup vegetable (starchy vegetable for NSLP and SBP)
  • ½ cup of cooked or 1 ounce (28 grams) of dry hominy grits credits as 1 ounce equivalent whole grain (1 serving grain for SFSP and NSLP Afterschool Snack). Corn Masa, Masa Harina, Corn Flour, and Cornmeal
Corn Masa, Masa Harina, Corn Flour, and Cornmeal

Since the release of the April 17, 2019, memo, FNS has received many questions from stakeholders on the crediting method for corn masa, masa harina, corn flour, and cornmeal. As such, we want to provide clarification on the guidance issued in SP 22- 2019, CACFP 09-2019, SFSP 08-2019.

Program operators now may calculate contributions from corn masa, masa harina, nixtamalized corn flour, and nixtamalized cornmeal in the same manner as all other creditable grain ingredients and food items. Crediting is determined by weight as listed in Exhibit A: Grain Requirements for Child Nutrition Programs, or by grams of creditable grain per portion. However, if any non-whole corn ingredient is labeled as enriched, or includes nutrients sub-listed after the corn ingredient in the ingredient statement, such as: yellow corn flour (folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine), then the corn ingredient can contribute only to the enriched grain requirements. Corn that is not “whole” or “enriched” or is not treated with lime (nixtamalized) does not credit as a grain in the CNPs. Please refer to the attached Questions and Answers for more detailed information about crediting these foods.

In addition to rescinding and replacing SP 22-2019, CACFP 09-2019, SFSP 08-2019, FNS has also rescinded SP 02-2013: Corn Masa (Dough) for Use in Tortilla Chips, Taco Shells, and Tamales, dated Oct. 3, 2012 and TA 01-2008: Crediting of Corn Meal (Cornmeal) and Corn Flour for Grains/Breads Component, dated Dec. 11, 2007. FNS will update the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs and the Whole Grain Resource for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to reflect these changes. To view the Food Buying Guide, please visit:

State agencies are reminded to distribute this memorandum to program operators. Program operators should direct any questions concerning this guidance to their state agency. State agencies with questions should contact the appropriate FNS regional office.

Angela M. Kline
Policy and Program Development Division

FSIS Would Have Mandatory Recall Authority Under Proposed Bill

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is proposing legislation that would require recalls of meat and poultry contaminated with pathogens. “As it stands now, if foods like ground beef and sliced turkey are found to be unsafe, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lacks the authority to issue a mandatory recall,” Gillibrand said. “As a result, it becomes a struggle to inform consumers the food they bought is not safe to eat.” The Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act would give USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) mandatory recall authority for meat, poultry and some egg products currently under USDA jurisdiction. Currently, if food is found to be adulterated or unsafe, or it causes foodborne illnesses, USDA can recommend that the manufacturer, importer, distributor or retailer voluntarily recall the product. If the company refuses, there are some other additional actions FSIS could take to persuade a company to issue the recall, but the agency can require one only if there was an adulterant discovered. What’s confusing is that not all foodborne pathogens are considered adulterants. For example, E. coli O157:H7 is, but Salmonella isn’t. Last August, FSIS denied a petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to have antibiotic-resistant Salmonella declared an adulterant, making it illegal to sell food contaminated with the bacteria and allowing FSIS to issue a recall or withhold the food from commerce. CSPI filed a revised petition in October, but under Gillibrand’s Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act, the Secretary of Agriculture could issue a mandatory recall of a food regardless of whether the harmful pathogen has been declared an adulterant or not. The bill would also require stores to improve customer notification in the event of a food recall. Stores would have to display a USDA-issued Recall Summary Notice at cash registers or on the shelf where the food was sold. Stores with customer loyalty card programs could also use their data to call and email consumers when food they have purchased has been recalled. “I plan to introduce this bill soon in the new Congress,” Gillibrand told reporters on Thursday. In the last Congress, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the Pathogen Reduction and Testing Reform Act to give FSIS the authority to declare any foodborne pathogens adulterants and recall contaminated products. It is likely that the pair will reintroduce the legislation in the House during the current 114th Congress. “Because of the inefficiencies in our national food safety system today, when we eat, we are very often putting ourselves at great risk of becoming seriously ill, regardless of how thoroughly we cook our food,” Gillibrand said. “Lunch should not be a high-risk activity.” Gillibrand is also throwing her support behind the Safe Food Act of 2015, introduced by DeLauro and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) last week, which would establish a single, independent federal food-safety agency. “If we can pass this bill, we will be making the most important change to our food safety systems since Upton Sinclair wrote ‘The Jungle’ and Teddy Roosevelt signed the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906,” Gillibrand said. DeLauro, Durbin and many consumer advocacy groups have also expressed their support for a proposal in the president’s FY 2016 budget which would consolidate FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration’s food-safety components into a new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.

2020-2021 National School Lunch Program USDA Foods Entitlement Calculations

Pursuant to section 2202(a) of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (PL 116-127) and in light of the exceptional circumstances of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, FNS is establishing a nationwide opt-in waiver to minimize the impact of school year (SY) 2019-2020 COVID-19 related school closures on State Distributing Agencies’ SY 2020-2021 USDA Foods entitlement.

Other Organizations
Entitlement Waiver for SY 2020-21
DATE: June 16, 2020
SUBJECT: Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Opt-In Waiver for School Year 2020- 2021 National School Lunch Program USDA Foods Entitlement Calculations
TO: Special Nutrition Programs
Regional Directors
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
Food Distribution Programs
All States

Pursuant to section 2202(a) of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (PL 116-127) and in light of the exceptional circumstances of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is establishing a nationwide opt-in waiver to minimize the impact of school year (SY) 2019-2020 COVID-19 related school closures on State Distributing Agencies’ (SDAs) SY 2020-2021 USDA Foods entitlement.

Section 2202(a) of the FFCRA permits the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a nationwide opt-in waiver for the purposes of providing meals under the child nutrition programs as determined by the Secretary.

Section 6(c) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA), 42 USC 1755(c), establishes that the amount of USDA Foods entitlement available to a state each school year for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is determined by multiplying the number of lunches served in that state in the preceding school year by the per meal rate established by Section 6(c)(1)(A) & (B). Additionally, consistent with Section 6(c), after the end of each school year, the preceding year’s lunches are reconciled with actual lunches served and the subsequent year’s entitlement is adjusted up or down accordingly.

Due to widespread school closures resulting from COVID-19, there is a potential that reimbursable lunch counts will be reduced in many states across the country. These reductions may result in decreases to the USDA Foods entitlement available to some SDAs for SY 2020-2021, which could lead to less USDA Foods provided in school meals. Therefore, FNS waives Section 6(c)(1)(C) of the NSLA, for all SDAs that elect to be subject to this waiver, to forego the annual reconciliation process in November 2020. Accordingly, for those states electing into this waiver, the following will occur:

  • The preliminary SY 2020-2021 entitlement level, based on SY 2018-2019 lunch counts, which states agencies were assigned in January 2020 for placing SY 20202021 orders, will be the final entitlement value assigned for SY 2020-2021.
  • In November 2021, reconciliation will occur as normal. In other words, SY 20212022 USDA Foods entitlement will reflect lunches served in SY 2020-2021.

For SDAs that choose not to opt-in to this waiver, SY 2019-2020 reconciliation will occur as normal in November 2020 using the actual number of lunches served in SY 2019-2020 and the preliminary SY 2020-2021 USDA Foods entitlement will be adjusted based on this reconciliation.

In determining whether to opt-in to this wavier, states should carefully assess their specific circumstances. While many states will likely see lunch count reductions because of the impacts from COVID-19, some states may see an increase in lunches served in SY 2019-2020 compared to SY 2018-2019. Factors that may influence this include additional lunches being served through child nutrition waivers combined with low overall NSLP participation in SY 2018-2019. Prior to electing into this waiver, SDAs should, to the maximum extent practicable, closely monitor and assess the number of NSLP lunches served in SY 2019-2020 and base their decision on this data.

Consistent with Section 2202(a)(2) of the FFCRA, this waiver applies to all states that elect to use it, without further application. If the state elects to be subject to this waiver, it must notify the Food Distribution Division Program Integrity and Monitoring Branch at [email protected] by Sept, 15, 2020, who will acknowledge receipt.

As required by Section 2202(d), each state that receives this waiver must submit a report to the Secretary not later than one year after the date such state elected to implement the waiver that includes:

  • A summary of the use of this waiver by the SDA and school food authorities and
  • A description of whether this waiver resulted in improved services to children.

FNS stands ready to provide assistance to areas impacted by COVID-19, and intends to continue supporting access to nutritious meals during this public health emergency.

FNS appreciates the exceptional effort of SDAs and school food authorities working to meet the nutritional needs of participants during this challenging time. States should direct entitlement questions to [email protected]

Dana Rasmussen
Acting Director
Food Distribution Division

The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.


Food safety in the United States is necessary in order to prevent and properly report food-borne illnesses. [3] In 2011, a total of 9.4 million incidents of food-borne illness occurred in the United States. [4] Widespread food-borne outbreaks typically spark legislation rather than legislation working as a preventative measure against food-borne illnesses.

Prior to 1906, there were no laws related to food and intentional additives and unintentional contaminants added to food. The Jungle, a novel published by Upton Sinclair in 1905, described the horrible working conditions in the meat-packing industry. His detailed account of the low quality of meat caused outrage among the public. [5]

In 1906, two acts were signed into law following the aftermath of the accounts of lack of food quality: the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. [6] The Pure Food and Drug Act forced food manufacturers to only sell unadulterated foods and to correctly label foods. The Meat Inspection Act lead to the creation of the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which manages the production of meat, poultry, and eggs, enforcing regulated limits of certain contaminants and enforcing quality of product. [7] These laws have become a foundation for food safety in the United States and have set a precedent in regulating food. Since these two acts were signed, amendments and changes have taken place, but upon the framework set by the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. These acts allowed U.S. court case called U.S. vs. 95 Barrels Alleged Apple Cider Vinegar to rule that the apple cider vinegar in question was misbranded as it was made from dried apples instead of fresh apples.

Recent legislation regarding food safety includes the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law on January 4, 2011, by Barack Obama. [8] This sweeping reform of food safety law shifted the FDA's focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. [9] The FDA was tasked with strengthening regulations regarding produce safety, as well as regulations with increased preventative control measures in facilities that process food. [10] FSMA's Produce Safety Rule (PSR), which went into effect on January 26, 2016, and is now being rolled out and implemented in different states, [11] establishes minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. [12]

The United States has three federal and two state governmental organizations that are in control of food safety within the United States: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State Department of Public Health, and the State Department of Agriculture. [13] These organizations focus on the production and distribution of food, making sure all food distributed to retail stores, restaurants, and consumers is safe, without contamination from food-borne illness. While there are many other smaller organizations that participate in the distribution of safe food, these organizations are the most active in regulating food and preventing food-borne illness in the United States.

Food and Drug Administration Edit

In 1862, the government division called the Bureau of Chemistry was created. [14] The Bureau of Chemistry separated into two divisions in 1927, one of which was called the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). [15] As a new organization, the FDA had little legal control when enforcing the few regulatory food safety laws. However, an incident in the late 1930s improved the FDA's control over food and drugs.

In the 1930s, a new antibacterial drug called sulfanilamide was synthesized and was widely accepted. One chemist at S.E. Massengill Co. in Bistol, Tennessee wanted to come up with a way to liquify the insoluble drug so children and adults could take the drug in liquid form. Diethylene glycol (DEG) was used to dissolve the drug, even though DEG is deadly to humans. Without any toxicologic testing, 1300 bottles of this "Elixir Sulfanilamide" were distributed to consumers and physicians. As soon as people starting dying after taking the elixir, the drug was recalled. The FDA investigated the company and found no clinical trials and no evidence of further testing involve the elixir.

At this time the FDA had no authority to penalize the company in question. Charges against the owner were filled, and six months later, a law called the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 was signed. This law forced all new food, drugs, and cosmetics to be certified by the FDA before being put on the market. [16] This act granted the FDA with enforcing and legal power that has helped regulate food and drugs ever since.

As of 2018, the FDA regulates more than $2.5 trillion in consumer food, medical products, and tobacco in the United States. [17] The head of the FDA has the position of Commissioner of the FDA. The FDA is currently in the government branch of the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Food Safety and Inspection Service Edit

The 25 percent of food that the FDA does not regulate is monitored instead by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and includes all egg, meat, and poultry products processed and distributed in the United States. [17] FSIS was founded upon the creation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906, the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957, and the Egg Products Inspection Act of 1970, along with several amendments to these acts that have been passed. [18] FSIS enforces safe, wholesome, correctly-labeled egg, poultry, and meat products in every state in the United States including Puerto Rico. [18] Currently, FSIS is an agency in the United States Department of Agriculture.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Edit

In 1948, the Malaria Control in War Areas, a program run by the U.S. Public Health Service, was turned into the Communicable Disease Center (CDC). On July 1, the CDC was established in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the CDC's initial goals was to eradicate malaria from the United States entirely, which it successfully accomplished in 1951. [19] When polio starting spreading in the 1950s, the CDC started to develop surveillance methods to keep track and record incidents of polio to help fight the spread of the paralytic and deadly virus. By the 1970s, less than 10 people had contracted polio in the United States. [20] In the 1970s, when the CDC's name changed to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the organization continued to advocate for other diseases and urgent public health issues. [21] In 2016, when the Zika virus spread to the United States, the CDC immediately mobilized their Emergency Operations Center and took appropriate action. [19] The main goal of the CDC is to keep track of health, safety, and security threats to the American people.

Before 1906, there were no laws concerning food safety and regulating how food is produced, manufactured, and distributed. Laws are typically written in the wake of severe outbreaks, rather than as a preventative measure. The current food safety laws are enforced by the FDA and FSIS. The FDA regulates all food manufactured in the United States, with the exception of the meat, poultry, and egg products that are regulated by FSIS. [15] The following is a list of all food safety acts, amendments, and laws put into place in the United States. [22] [14]

1900-1950 Edit

1930: McNary-Mapes Amendment

1951-2000 Edit

1953: Factory Inspection Amendment

1954: Miller Pesticide Amendment

1960: Color Additive Amendment

1968: Wholesome Poultry Products Act

1968: Animal Drug Amendments

1970: Egg Products Inspection Act

1976: Vitamins and Minerals Amendment

1996: Federal Tea Tasters Repeal Act

1997: National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act

2001-present Edit

2003: Animal Drug User Fee Act

2004: Passage of the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act

2005: Sanitary Food Transportation Act

2016: Agriculture Marketing Act

Listed are the deadliest incidents of food-borne illness in the past few decades:

1992-1993 - Jack in the Box E.coli outbreak: Beef patties distributed by Jack in the Box restaurants were contaminated with E. coli O15:H7. Investigators say 602 patients were infected with E. coli, 144 people were hospitalized, and three people died. [23]

2003 - Chi Chi's Green Onion Hepatitis A outbreak: Green onions produced in Mexico were unknowingly infected with Hepatitis A. These onions were served raw at a select Chi Chi restaurant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Of the 575 people who caught the disease, three people died. [24]

2006 - Dole Baby Spinach E.coli outbreak: Baby spinach packaged in Dole's freshly bagged spinach was contaminated by the spinach field's proximity to cattle ranches. There were 238 who fell ill, of which 103 were hospitalized, and five people died. [25]

2008 - King Nut Peanut Butter Salmonella outbreak: The King Nut creamy peanut butter was a source of salmonella outbreak throughout the United States with 714 total infected and a death toll of nine. [26]

2011 - Cantaloupe Listeriosis outbreak: Whole cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Granada, Colorado were found to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that causes Listeriosis. The outbreak caused a total of 33 deaths from the 147 infected patients. [27]

2015-2016 - Cucumber Salmonella outbreak: Investigators found Salmonella in cucumbers grown in Baja, Mexico and distributed by Andrew and Williamson Fresh produce. Of the 907 people infected with Salmonella, 204 were hospitalized, and six people died.

COVID-19 Update: USDA, FDA Underscore Current Epidemiologic and Scientific Information Indicating No Transmission of COVID-19 Through Food or Food Packaging

For Immediate Release: February 18, 2021 Statement From: Janet Woodcock, M.D.
Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs - Food and Drug Administration

After more than a year since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak was declared a global health emergency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to underscore that there is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19.

Our confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains steadfast. Consumers should be reassured that we continue to believe, based on our understanding of currently available reliable scientific information, and supported by overwhelming international scientific consensus, that the foods they eat and food packaging they touch are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2.

It’s particularly important to note that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person, unlike foodborne or gastrointestinal viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food. While there are relatively few reports of the virus being detected on food and packaging, most studies focus primarily on the detection of the virus’ genetic fingerprint rather than evidence of transmission of virus resulting in human infection. Given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low.

The USDA and the FDA are sharing this update based upon the best available information from scientific bodies across the globe, including a continued international consensus that the risk is exceedingly low for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans via food and food packaging. For example, a recent opinion from the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF), stated: “Despite the billions of meals and food packages handled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to date there has not been any evidence that food, food packaging or food handling is a source or important transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in COVID-19.” Additional literature reviews and analyses from other countries agree.

In addition, considering the more than 100 million cases of COVID-19, we have not seen epidemiological evidence of food or food packaging as the source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans. Furthermore, transmission has not been attributed to food products or packaging through national and international surveillance systems. Food business operations continue to produce a steady supply of safe food following current Good Manufacturing Practices and preventive controls, focusing on good hygiene practices and keeping workers safe.

Based on the scientific information that continues to be made available over the course of the pandemic, the USDA and FDA continue to be confident in the safety of the food available to American consumers and exported to international customers.


Refrigerate foods promptly

  • Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40° F or below and the freezer temperature is 0° F or below.
  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90° F.
  • Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the counter top. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

Request for Proposal and Applicable Attachments, round one (May 15-June 30) and round two (July 1-August 31)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020, at 3 p.m. (ET) - A webinar that discusses technical details of USDA’s solicitation for the third round of purchases for the program.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 2 p.m. (ET) - a webinar for farmers, shippers and other suppliers interested in participating in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. This webinar is an opportunity for these parties to learn how to move their food through this new program for produce, dairy and meat products.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 12 p.m. (ET) - a webinar to discuss technical details for the Request for Proposals

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 – an informational webinar discussing Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and providing overview of Farm to Families Food Box Program

Participants: David Tuckwiller, Christopher Purdy, Elizabeth Lober, Hilary Cole

AMS Administrator Discusses Farmers to Families Food Box Program

Call with distributors and non-profit organizations to overview the Farmers to Families Food Box Program portion of the recent $19 billion CFAP announcement. The call took place April 20, 2020.

Participants: Bruce Summers, Administrator, AMS, Mike Beatty, Director, Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, Brandon Lipps, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy development is important. Consequently, FSIS will announce this Federal Register publication on-line through the FSIS web page located at:​federal-register.

FSIS also will make copies of this publication available through the FSIS Constituent Update, which is used to provide information regarding FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal Register notices, FSIS public meetings, and other types of information that could affect or would be of interest to our constituents and stakeholders. The Constituent Update is available on the FSIS web page. Through the web page, FSIS is able to provide information to a much broader, more diverse audience. In addition, FSIS offers an email subscription service which provides automatic and customized access to selected food safety news and information. This service is available at:​subscribe. Options range from recalls to export information, regulations, directives, and notices. Customers can add or delete subscriptions themselves, and have the option to password protect their accounts.

Q: What measures is the government taking to ensure that we remain able to address foodborne illness outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic?

With respect to foodborne pathogens (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, or Hepatitis A), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA, and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service continue to work with state and local partners to investigate foodborne illnesses and outbreaks. More specifically, the CDC continues to lead and coordinate investigations of multistate foodborne events, consult with states as needed on events within a single state, and work closely with FDA investigators and others so that contaminated foods are traced back to their sources and controlled.

The FDA manages outbreak responses and activities related to incidents involving multiple illnesses linked to FDA-regulated human foods and other products. (These include dietary supplements and cosmetic products.) During this pandemic, the FDA will continue to prepare for, coordinate, and carry out response activities related to incidents of foodborne illness.

The FDA also manages responses to outbreaks associated with animal food. Staff continue to stand ready to respond to incidents of foodborne illness in animals.


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