Ensuring U.S. and Global Food Safety During the COVID-19 Crisis

“There is no evidence, as yet, regarding the transmission of COVID-19 through food or food packaging” – this was the reassuring message echoed by Frank Yiannas, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner of Food Policy and Response, at the March 18th Industry Stakeholder Meeting. Some other key points discussed during the meeting were as follows:

  • COVID-19 infection does not lead to gastrointestinal foodborne illness. Rather, the disease affects an individual’s respiratory system;
  • The FDA will continue to conduct critical inspections related to Class 1 recalls and respond to outbreaks and other public health emergencies under its jurisdiction;
  • No food recalls are generally required, and also products are not required to be put on hold if someone in a facility is diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • If a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, the facility should contact their health department, follow the CDC guidelines, and perform deep cleaning and sanitizing of the production area.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the SARS-CoV-2 virus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11th, and since then, some panic-stricken shoppers have been stockpiling food due to uncertainty regarding its near-future availability in groceries. Such fears are unwarranted since food processors and retailers will continue working since ensuring a safe food supply to consumers is a critical function of the global economy. WHO has provided some reassuring guidance for food businesses on how to operate safely during the COVID-19 crisis, and salient points are as follows 1:

  • Employees’ safety is of the top-most concern. The main focus is to prevent the virus from entering the facility, and to avoid person-to-person transmission within the food facility.
  • Employees are made aware, and if found with COVID-19 symptoms, they are excluded from the workplace. Fitness-to-work protocols need to be strictly followed.
  • Staff protection measures are reinforced, e.g. using appropriate personal protection equipment, practicing social-distancing, and following hand washing and respiratory etiquette.
  • Extra precautions are taken when securely receiving and transporting products, or when meeting visitors in the facility.
  • Open and exposed food displays, like self-serve salad bars, should be avoided in order to minimize incidents of potential COVID-19 transmission among employees.
  • A complete deep cleaning of the facility should be ensured prior to and after the production run, and regular sanitizing of “high touch points” is followed.

Remco, as providers of high quality, color-coded material handling, hygiene, and sanitation tools are here to assist our end users in helping keep the food facility environment cleaner and safer. For more information about food processing and COVID-19, click here.

References:

IAFP/WHO Webinar (April 3, 2020) “EPI-WIN COVID-19: How to Ensure and Maintain Food Supply and How to Protect Workers in the Food Industry and at Retail”