WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration on May 19 announced a memorandum of understanding to help prevent interruptions at FDA-regulated food facilities, including fruit and vegetable processing facilities.

A joint statement by Mindy Brashears, PhD, USDA’s undersecretary for food safety, and Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response, said the MOU creates a process for the two agencies to make determinations about circumstances under which the USDA may exercise its authority under the Defense Production Act with regard to certain domestic food resource facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold foods, as well as to those that grow or harvest food, that fall within the FDA’s jurisdiction.

“While the FDA will continue to work with state and local regulators in a collaborative manner, further action under the DPA may be taken, should it be needed, to ensure the continuity of our food supply,” the statement read. “As needed, the FDA will work in consultation with state, local, tribal and territorial regulatory and public health partners; industry or commodity sector; and other relevant stakeholders (e.g. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to chart a path toward resuming and/or maintaining operations while keeping employees safe.”

Under Executive Order 13917, signed by President Donald Trump on April 28, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was delegated the authority under the DPA to ensure the continuity of operations for the nation’s food supply chain. The executive order gave the secretary of agriculture the power to utilize the DPA if needed to require fulfillment of contracts at food processing facilities.