March 30, 2020
By James O’Donnell, Food Safety and Quality Advisor
It is no secret that COVID19 has had a global effect on human health and safety. Beyond this obvious statement, this pandemic is drastically and disproportionately affecting small businesses and will continue to do so despite food manufacturing being deemed an essential business critical to the infrastructure and allowances by many states and localities for restaurants to remain open for take-out or delivery.
We continue to actively monitor this pandemic in real-time, including current guidance and regulatory information published by leading public health and food safety agencies. Further, Matrix Sciences is engaging in discussions with federal, state and local public health and food safety organizations on topics vital to the food industry.
A summary of these resources are offered below in order to assist our food industry partners. More guidance is being posted by these various agencies daily so we encourage you to frequently visit these sites for up to date information. With this said, please note that the information below is current as of the date of this article. Again, check back with these sources to see about any changes as this unpredictable pandemic progresses.
Food Safety Agency Resources:
First and foremost, a reminder: There is no evidence that suggests COVID-19 is transmitted through food or food consumption, according to the FDA, CDC, and European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).
FDA: FDA has issued several excellent guidance documents and continues to add to its FAQs. A good list of FDA COVID-19 related guidance documents can be found at the following link: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-related-guidance-documents-industry-fda-staff-and-other-stakeholders
In a recent townhall public meeting by FDA, FDA stated that it does not expect a manufacturer to hold or recall product if an employee is confirmed with COVID-19. https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/counterterrorism-and-emerging-threats/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19. So what do you do if / when a worker tests positive? See the tips under this topic below!
USDA: USDA FSIS keeps an updated FAQ on COVID-19 at the following link: https://www.usda.gov/coronavirus
CFIA: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency offers a resource page at the following: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/covid-19/cfia-information-for-industry/eng/1584462704366/1584462704709
EFSA: The European Food Safety Authority resources can be found from this link: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/coronavirus-no-evidence-food-source-or-transmission-route
FDA Temporary Policy Regarding Nutrition Labeling of Certain Packaged Food During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. https://www.fda.gov/media/136469/download
NRA: National Restaurant Association: Guidance and updates for restaurants: https://restaurant.org/Covid19
Environmental Protection Agency:
The EPA has published List N, a list of disinfectants that are effective against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
The consensus among these guidelines and organization such as Association of Food and Drug Officials, Conference for Food Protection, and International Association for Food Protection is that current food safety measures and sanitizers should be effective against COVID19. Refer to product EPA labels for appropriate contact or dwell times and safety measures.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Don’t forget: the CDC is the leading voice on COVID-19! The CDC website has a plethora of excellent, science-based information that we highly encourage you to consult. For example, the CDC has issued temporary guidance documents on the following:
- Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
- Interim Recommendations for US Community Facilities with Suspected/Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html
- The CDC refers to a list from the American Chemistry Council for effective cleaners. https://www.americanchemistry.com/Novel-Coronavirus-Fighting-Products-List.pdf
Other Relevant Agencies:
A guidance has also been provided by OSHA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html#health https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/interim-guidance-environmental-cleaning-non-healthcare-facilities-exposed-2019
The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has also made a page for Public health workers that is a great source of references and guidance. https://www.neha.org/covid-19
NEHA has provided these guides for Food Regulators and Food Establishments. https://www.neha.org/sites/default/files/COVID-19-FAQs-Food-Safety-Regulators-March_20_2020.pdf https://www.neha.org/sites/default/files/COVID-19-FAQs-Food-Establishments_March_20_2020.pdf
What Do I Do if an Employee is Confirmed Positive for COVID-19?
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality. Ill employees should follow the CDC’s ‘What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)’. Employers should consult with the local health department for additional guidance. The primary goal is to prevent person-to-person transmission. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/sick-with-2019-nCoV-fact-sheet.pdf
Focus on cleaning and disinfecting common areas and frequently touched surfaces used such as doorknobs, light switches, controls, and other contact items.
If you are uncertain if you have proper food safety and sanitation programs in place, contact Matrix Sciences https://www.matrixsciences.com/contact/ for assistance or an assessment.
American Chemistry Council. (2020, March 16). Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)—Fighting Productsi. Retrieved from American Chemistry Council: https://www.americanchemistry.com/Novel-Coronavirus-Fighting-Products-List.pdf
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 17). Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers. Retrieved from Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fspecific-groups%2Fguidance-business-response.html
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 17). Interim Recommendations for US Community Facilities with Suspected/Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019. Retrieved from Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 17). Interim Recommendations for US Households with Suspected/Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019. Retrieved from Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/cleaning-disinfection.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fcommunity%2Fhome%2Fcleaning-disinfection.html
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (2020, February 18). Interim guidance for environmental cleaning in non-healthcare facilities exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Retrieved from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/interim-guidance-environmental-cleaning-non-healthcare-facilities-exposed-2019
United States Dept of Labor. (2020, March 17). COVID-19. Retrieved from United States Dept of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html#health
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2020, March 17). List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. Retrieved from United States Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2