As part of our national critical infrastructure, the food industry has had to quickly adjust to changes in how it operates to ensure supply-chain continuity during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Not only are these stakeholders working to protect their employees from COVID-19, but they are also working to ensure the safety of the human and animal foods they produce as they experience changes within their operations.
Over the last several months, the FDA, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have developed a number of resources to help food industry employers continue or resume operations safely. These resources complement the FDA’s long-standing requirements for food producers to protect the safety of the food they produce.
To assist the food industry as it navigates changes to operations related to COVID-19, the FDA has teamed up with OSHA to develop the “Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist for Human and Animal Food Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The checklist pulls from existing guidance provided by the FDA, CDC, and OSHA and serves as a quick reference to help the food industry assess employee health, social distancing, and food safety within workplaces as operations may be impacted by COVID-19.
The checklist is broken into two distinct sections. The first section focuses on employee health, screening, and operation configuration for social distancing to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 based on guidelines provided by CDC and OSHA. The second section highlights food safety requirements, found in existing regulations, that can help the food industry assess the potential impact of COVID-19-related operational changes on food safety practices. Some operational changes that could impact food safety include closures, changes among food safety staff, or changes to suppliers or ingredients.
Some or all of this checklist may be useful to establishments that are growing, harvesting, packing, manufacturing, processing, or holding human and animal food regulated by FDA. These include produce, seafood, milk, eggs, grains, game meat, and other raw materials or ingredients, as well as their resulting human or animal food products. This checklist also provides useful information for foreign facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food intended for consumption in the United States.
This checklist is not an exhaustive list of all measures human and animal food operations may take to protect employee health and food safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it can serve as a quick reference to identify areas where additional attention could be warranted. Operations should continue to refer to guidelines offered by their state and local government, as well as additional information provided by the FDA, CDC and OSHA.