( File photo )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said its food safety and pest and plant disease divisions, along with the Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees multiple specialty crop-related functions, continue to function as the coronavirus COVID-19 spread.

Mindy Brashears, the USDA deputy under secretary for food safety, and Greg Ibach, the agency’s under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, released a joint statement about the USDA programs that handle functions the fruit and vegetable industry depends on remain staffed during the crisis.

According to the statement, services at these USDA agencies remain in effect:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees quarantines for plant diseases and pests;
Food Safety Inspection Service, which oversees food safety for items including meat, eggs and other proteins, including fresh salads that contain those items; and
Agricultural Marketing Service, which provides market prices and numerous other Market News reports, oversees the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, and marketing and promotion/research orders.

According to the statement, the agencies will use all administrative means and flexibility to address staffing issues and field personnel will work with management and state and local health authorities to “handle situations as they arise.”

“In this time of much uncertainty, we know that many of you have questions about how the department will continue to ensure that grading and inspection personnel are available,” according to statement from Brashears and Ibach. “We have all seen how consumers have reacted to the evolving coronavirus situation and how important access to food is to a sense of safety and well-being.

“It is more important than ever that we assure the American public that government and industry will take all steps necessary to ensure continued access to safe and wholesome USDA-inspected products,” according to the statement.

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