On Friday House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Chairman Jim Costa of California sent a letter to United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in the wake of the second death of a USDA meat inspector due to COVID-19. Costa raised concerns about a directive issued on April 9 requiring federal inspectors to find or make their own masks and face coverings, and is committed to working with Secretary Perdue to support the health and safety of the 8,000 USDA meat and poultry inspectors.
"At a time when our meat and poultry workers and inspectors are having to weigh their own safety and their livelihoods, it is a time for us to work with USDA to ensure that we protect our food supply in a way that also prioritizes the safety of our workers. I am committed to working with Secretary Perdue to do all that we can to make sure we can continue inspection in the safest way possible," says Costa.
In the letter Costa writes, "Our frontline food and agriculture workers, including inspectors, farmers, farm workers and plant and supply chain workers are critical to the health, safety and security of our country. We know without healthy inspectors and workers, plants cannot operate, farmers have no place to market their animals, and consumers miss out on an affordable and safe food. We must do everything we can to protect those frontline workers during this public health emergency.
"We share the goal of keeping USDA employees and all frontline workers safe, but I am troubled by the directive issued on April 9, 2020, requiring federal inspectors to find or make their own masks and face coverings. Shortages of personal protective equipment are well known and given the Vice President's April 16th public pledge to ensure every frontline food worker has a mask, I hope this directive is no longer needed."