Sen. Markey Wants Clear Guidance From Trump Administration on Retail, Consumer Food Handling During Coronavirus Pandemic

The following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey’s offices. He was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. He is a Democrat.

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BOSTON – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue and promote clear guidance for workers in the retail food industry and their customers during the coronavirus health emergency.

To date, both agencies have provided only limited guidance.

For retail food workers, FDA guidance recommends certain hygiene practices and social distancing where practicable, but also states that social distancing will not always be possible. 

The guidance ultimately leaves decisions on the feasibility of worker protections to retail food establishments themselves. For consumers, the CDC guidance merely reiterates frequent-hand-washing recommendations and states “because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.”

In his letter, Senator Markey asks for the agencies to provide clearer guidance for workers in the retail food industry and consumers on how to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus.

“During this public health crisis, the CDC and FDA must take more aggressive action to protect workers in the retail food industry and consumers,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. “Your agencies must ensure that all guidance is comprehensive, easy to find, and protects both workers and consumers.”

A copy of the letters can be found HERE.

Senator Markey requests response to questions that include:

  • What guidance has the CDC or FDA issued for consumers on how to protect themselves from the coronavirus while shopping for food or receiving food deliveries?
  • Does the CDC or FDA plan to issue any expanded or additional guidance in these areas?
  • What steps are the CDC or FDA taking to safeguard workers who cannot abide by the social distancing guidance?
  • What steps are the CDC or FDA taking to ensure that food retailers and delivery services are complying with guidance on protecting worker and consumer safety?

Last week, Senator Markey sent a letter to the Trump administration calling on it to protect all frontline workers by ensuring they have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the tasks they undertake.

Senator Markey argued that frontline workers – those who provide an essential or key public service – are critical in grocery stores, restaurants, delivery services, mass transportation, sanitation, prisons, utilities, security, and emergency response, among other sectors of the economy and need PPE such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.

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