Gardening at night: fresh produce supply chains in the time of Covid-19

Note: this isn’t to scare you. This is just stuff I have some knowledge of and a good hunch about. My hunches tend to be right. Call them woo woo. Call me stupid in a year. But take a couple minutes to read this.

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So one of the effects of the Bubonic Plague was that no one was around to make the donuts because everybody was otherwise occupied.

Monks made out like bandits because they were isolated and farmed with the most advanced techniques.

Short term food shortages aren’t the problem. The capacity is there. It’s retooling how food gets distributed. Long term, the issue is whether there will be labor to work American farms and whether produce is trustworthy.

We have strategic grain and dairy reserves and probably a lot of canned fruits and vegetables. But the U.S. relies heavily on migrant farm labor, mostly from Mexico. The U.S. is still allowing workers to come through on temporary work visas.

But there is no plan to monitor or take care of these workers’ health.

And if you think Mexico is gonna save us…they might…or they might not.

I’m from Nogales and I know the produce/transportation industries. Mexico supplies the U.S. with a lot of its fruits and vegetables. Some producers/distributors have modernized and implemented practices to assure food quality. But Mexico isn’t quarantining or even self-isolating yet, despite the fact that the virus has already shown up there. If the workers fall sick, they can either stop working or possibly transfer the virus into the United States through distribution lines, not through people…but through things they’ve come in contact with…like the food itself. The boxes. The metal trucks.

If we learn anything from the Italy outbreak it might be that distribution lines of goods could transmit the virus. The German auto plant claims that the virus was not transmitted by any auto plant worker traveling to Italy. Virologists at the Luigi Sacco University Hospital in Milan, however, have tested the sequences of the virus in Italy. They closely match those from the Webasto outbreak.

But what if the virus transferred on the goods?

According to a recent study published in The Lancet, collected data suggests “the possibility of extended duration of viral shedding in faeces, for nearly 5 weeks after the patients’ respiratory samples tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Although knowledge about the viability of SARS-CoV-2 is limited, the virus could remain viable in the environment for days, which could lead to faecal–oral transmission, as seen with severe acute respiratory virus CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV.”

The U.S. has previously stopped the import of Mexican produce for fecal contamination concerns. Yes, producers have made great strides in food cleanliness standards. But not enough. And washing produce is not sufficient for some fruits and vegetables.

I can’t find evidence to tell me that the U.S.D.A is checking imported produce for Covid-19, or any produce for that matter.

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Edit:

I should say that I’m not concerned about people investing the food because there isn’t anything to suggest that Covid-19 can be transmitted through the digestive track. I’m more concerned that the workers themselves will be get sick and not be able to produce the food. But with metal trucks…if the workers are sick, the virus can remain for two to three days…long enough for it to go across country.

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What would I do if I were in charge? Redundancy. Create parallel food supplies with strict cleanliness standards and monitor workers. Daily testing. I don’t care if they’re migrant workers or domestic workers. Covid-19 does not discriminate.

But for all of you who aren’t in charge, I’d wash my produce. I’d probably start a victory garden.

I still don’t know if that’s enough.

Like I said, I hope I’m wrong. I’d rather be wrong a look like a fool than be right about this. Sometimes people who work to prevent bad things end up looking silly when the bad things don’t happen. Like the people who worked to prevent Y2K.

The commercial port of entry between Nogales Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona.

If you know better and I’m wrong, correct me. I would really appreciate it.

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