Europe fears empty grocery stores amid coronavirus outbreak, but food companies say there’s plenty to go around

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Credit: NPR

Naked supermarket shelves and masked shoppers hoarding pasta have become the iconic images of the coronavirus crisis so far. But motivating the widespread stockpiling is a deeper fear: that Europe might run out of food. Politicians from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to France’s farm chief Didier Guillaume have rushed to reassure consumers that plenty of grub is available, and that the real problem is stockpiling, as it heaps pressure on supply chains.

So who knows best, the politicians or the people stockpiling 40 bottles of UHT milk and ten tons of tinned peaches?

Keep calm: Producers say they have indeed noticed hiccups in supply chains, partly due to transport disruption caused by new national border controls, but say the big picture is that there is plenty to go around. “All our food is getting to the warehouses — with delays — but it’s getting there,” said Bart Vandewaetere, a spokesperson for Nestlé, the world’s largest food company.

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There may also be delays because of time-consuming hygiene measures being implemented at packaging factories, or if large numbers of staff begin to fall ill in the processing industry. But — for the time being — producers believe there is no need to fear a doomsday food shortage.

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