Stakeholders Act to Ensure Strong Food Supply Lines

By Sean Moloughney, Editor, Nutraceuticals World | 03.19.20

The grocery supply chain will be tested, but remains resilient, according to experts.

As consumers around the U.S. cleaned out grocery stores amid the fast-developing public health crisis caused by COVID-19, stakeholders are enacting measures to ensure the food supply is secure.
“There are no nationwide shortages of food,” according to FDA, “although in some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low before stores can restock. Food production and manufacturing are widely dispersed throughout the United States and no widespread disruptions have been reported in the supply chain.”
FDA said it is closely monitoring the food supply chain for any shortages in collaboration with industry and federal and state partners. “We are in regular contact with food manufacturers and grocery stores.” 
The Consumer Brands Association, formerly the Grocery Manfuacturers Assocaition (GMA), said it is coordinating industry efforts and is developing recommendations to alleviate potential supply chain disruptions now and for the future.
In a letter dated Mar. 15 directed to President Trump and signed by Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of CBA, the group expressed thanks to the Administration for considering easing regulation “that could further undermine supply chains and take resources away from focusing on consumer needs during this crisis.”
CBA said it has identified a set of immediate recommendations outlined below:
“1. Request funds in upcoming emergency supplemental appropriations bills to mitigate supply chain disruptions and manage food, personal care, hygiene, cleaning, disinfecting and sterilization input shortages.
2. Coordinate with state governors to ensure that gathering restrictions do not affect the operations of manufacturing facilities producing essential goods.
3. Establish an Office of Supply Chain that will coordinate across agencies that touch supply chain to ensure the movement of essential goods as this crisis evolves.
4. Include personal care, hygiene, cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilization products on a temporary basis in Pandemic-Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (P-SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other federal programs. We ask for a temporary increase in funding to offset the additional costs associated with this expansion.
5. Suspend for six months new regulatory decisions that could hinder supply chains or take focus and resources away from the national need for increased production and delivery of critical goods.”
The food industry association FMI, which represents food retailers, wholesalers and suppliers of the food and consumer products they sell, said the grocery supply chain will be tested, but remains resilient due to built-in efficiencies, strong trading partner relationships, nimble technology and service relationships.
“With increasing uncertainty regarding COVID-19 in the U.S., shoppers seek to reestablish control of their environment—and our grocery supply chain is working to support that desire for stability through its adaptability, flexibility and resilience,” FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said in a statement. “Our industry has proven itself time after time in periods of emergency, as evidenced by its strength and confidence in the ability to meet the needs of the communities it serves, no matter the circumstance. This fortitude is due to our strong public-private partnerships with government agencies to ensure our supply chain remains both nimble and effective.”
Sarasin continued: “We live in a global economy, which is evident every day in the aisles of a grocery store. As this situation progresses, the grocery supply chain will be tested, but built-in efficiencies, strong trading partner relationships, nimble technology and service relationships, and genuine concern for our customers will be manifested in the resilience of this supply chain.” 
In a statement release yesterday, Cargill said it is “working around the clock with farmers and our customers—the world’s food retailers and service providers—to continue feeding the world safely, responsibly and sustainably. We remain confident in the dependability of our global food system.”
Disruptions in Cargill’s food supply chains have been limited, according to the company, as employees continue to operate safely in its facilities.
“We are prioritizing our employees’ health and well-being, as they are essential in delivering the food we all need to stay healthy and nourished. This includes additional precautions to support staff at our production facilities, including temperature testing, cleaning and sanitizing procedures, prohibiting visitors from entering our facilities, prohibiting international travel, limiting domestic travel, adopting social distancing practices and offering shift flexibility to keep our major production facilities open.”
Beyond business operations, Cargill said it is working with non-profit partners, supporting local foodbanks and developing emergency food boxes to address nutrition needs of vulnerable children and families around the world who may be facing food insecurity, an issue heightened with widespread school closures.