WASHINGTON — US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue assured Americans that the food supply is “strong, resilient and safe” during an April 15 White House press conference.
Perdue’s remarks come during an eventful week for food processors. A number of meat processing plants have confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) at their facilities, including Tyson Foods Inc., which announced on April 16 that two employees at its Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork processing plant have died following an outbreak of COVID-19 at the plant, which has been idle since April 6. Meanwhile, Thomasville, Ga.-based baking company Flowers Foods, Inc. announced April 14 it is temporarily ceasing production at its Tucker, Ga., baking plant because of COVID-19. Flowers said it expects the plant to resume operations on April 27.
“There’s been a lot happening this week as COVID-19 is impacting food processing facilities, as you know,” Perdue said. “For Americans who may be worried about access to good food because of this, I want to assure you the American food supply is strong, resilient and safe. And in fact, our food supply chain has shown tremendous agility in shifting production and logistics so suddenly from restaurant and institutional settings to retail settings.”
Perdue urged all employers in the food processing sector to follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including how to keep employees safe and healthy and how to mitigate a situation if a positive case develops in any facilities.
He also thanked the nation’s critical, essential food supply chain workers.
“The entire country is counting on these patriotic individuals by doing the work in our food supply chain,” he said. “These dedicated workers include obviously farmers and producers, but also processors, truckers and grocery store workers, as you know.”
In his concluding remarks, Perdue stressed that there is plenty of food for all US citizens.
“The bare store shelves that you may see in some cities in the country are a demand issue, not a supply issue,” he said. “The way food is prepared and packaged to be sold in a restaurant or a school is significantly different than the way it’s packaged for you to buy in the grocery store.
“Our supply chain is sophisticated, efficient, integrated and synchronized, and it’s taken us a few days to relocate the misalignment between institutional settings and grocery settings, but that does not mean that we don’t have enough food in this country to feed the American people. You might think of it as an interstate when it’s little flowing along well, and you have a crash at one place. It backs up, and that’s what’s happening in the food supply chain, but we’re working through that. Through all this, our food supply chain has proven to be very resilient just like American people. To the extent we have challenges we have and continue to need to work through it all together, and we can and we will get through this with a whole of America approach.”