Food supply, safety vital at all times

Food supply, safety vital at all times

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It’s incredible what panic can do. Preparation for a disaster is always needed, but people inevitably overreact when the time comes.

Such is the case with panic buying amid the coronavirus threat. Toilet tissue, bottled water, canned goods, meats and more are flying off the shelves at just about every store.

People are right to see the need to remain at home as much as possible. Beyond official advice to avoid crowds, doing so just makes sense. Thus the thinking: Buy all you can in one trip and stay home from there.

But people are buying up items at such volume that it temporarily threatens the supply for others, prompting officials to call for calm.

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One of those in S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers from Bowman. On Tuesday, he sought to assure South Carolinians there is no shortage of food now and will not be.

“As we monitor the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve reached out to farmers, grocery stores and other industry partners, and we have no concerns about their ability to continue supplying food to us all,” Weathers said.

From peach growers to poultry producers, South Carolina farmers continue to grow and raise food; and the domestic transportation and retail infrastructure is well adapted to handle increased demand, Weathers said.

Weathers urged people to be prepared, but not hoard food or other supplies. South Carolinians may see some empty shelves, but retailers are quickly restocking as new deliveries come in, he said.

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“The American food supply chain is stable and robust.”

Weathers added to his statement that the food supply is safe from the coronavirus, saying there is no evidence suggesting COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a similar statement, with USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach and USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Mindy Brashears on Tuesday issuing a letter stating the agency is ensuring the safety and timely delivery of the U.S. food supply while at the same time protecting the health of USDA employees.

“As leaders of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, and Food Safety and Inspection Service, we can assure you that the agencies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply from farm to fork. … As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health,” Ibach and Brashears wrote.

Filling jobs still priority amid worries

Food is not in short supply and thankfully won’t be. And the food supply is safe. Americans take supply and safety so much for granted. Neither happens by accident.

The work of SCDA and the USDA is vital in keeping us safe from health issues that could be far worse than COVID-19.

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