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Schumer urges FDA to clarify plan to address lack of oversight and inspection of U.S. food supply system

By Billie Owens

From Senator Charles E. Schumer:

As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout the country, making New York its epicenter with over 10,000 deaths, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately clarify its plan to address the lack over oversight and inspection of the American food supply system – to restore peace of mind to millions.

Last month, the FDA announced the temporary suspension of domestic routine surveillance facility inspections and the relaxation of compliance requirements for food producers.

According to Schumer, as the virus continues to spread throughout the United States, the nation’s grocery and food industries were not spared. Schumer’s concerns over the FDA’s rollbacks were exacerbated by recent reports  of outbreaks in food distribution facilities, processing plants, warehouses, and grocery stores around the nation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is reaching alarming new levels every day, leaving no part of life untouched and millions of Americans perpetually concerned,” Senator Schumer said. “In the midst of all that we are facing, New Yorkers deserve to have the peace of mind that the food on their tables is safe to eat.

"Contaminated food sickens and kills thousands of Americans every year and the challenge of this virus must not be an excuse to let our guard down when it comes to keeping our food supply safe for consumers. The FDA must not scale back essential food-safety inspections and must maintain food-production requirements and guarantee the safety of our food supply in these trying times."

Schumer’s call for adequate oversight and inspection of the domestic food supply follows reports that the FDA has suspended routine surveillance facility inspections and relaxed compliance requirements. The senator demanded to know how the FDA was guaranteeing food safety for Americans, especially during a time where New Yorkers are depending on a reliable food supply.

The Center for Diseases Control estimates that roughly one in six Americans, or 48 million people, get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses every year, even with the FDA’s usual regulations in place.

Salmonella alone causes about 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the United States, costing about $350 million annually. A salmonella outbreak linked to papaya sickened 24 people in New York last year.

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