The Smithfield Foods Inc. logo is displayed on boxes at the company's pork processing facility in Milan, Missouri, U.S., on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg) The Smithfield Foods Inc. logo is displayed on boxes at the company’s pork processing facility in Milan, Missouri, U.S., on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

For so many Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a tsunami of uncertainties. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) understands this and wants to quell any concerns that the public has regarding our nation’s food supply. 

Food safety and transmission of COVID-19

In response to questions about food safety and the pandemic, the FDA wants the public to know that foodborne exposure to COVID-19 is not known to be a route of transmission. In fact, there is no known evidence that human or animal food or any type of food packaging is in any way associated with the transmission of the disease; the U.S. food supply remains safe for people and animals. 

The FDA explains that unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A, which can make people ill by contaminating food, COVID-19 is thought to be transmitted mainly from person to person. As a result, foodborne exposures to COVID-19 are not considered a route of transmission for the disease. 

At this time, the FDA doesn’t anticipate that food products will be recalled or withdrawn from public consumption because of the pandemic — even if an individual who works in a food facility tests positive for COVID-19.

However, even if there were an infected worker in a food facility, FDA-regulated food manufacturers are required to follow current good manufacturing practices to minimize the potential for surface contamination and to eliminate contamination when it occurs. With the detection of COVID-19 in asymptomatic people and the fact that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects for short periods of time, food facilities are urged to consider a more frequent cleaning and sanitation schedule for surfaces with high human contact and to follow the four key steps of food safety — clean, separate, cook and chill.

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, employers should immediately inform all workers of their possible exposure while maintaining confidentiality. Employees who are exposed to a co-worker with COVID-19 should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on what to do if you are sick with COVID-19, and employers should consult their local health department for additional guidance.

Resources

Food facilities need to follow protocols set by local and state health departments, which may vary depending on the amount of community spread of COVID-19 in a particular area. The FDA encourages all businesses to coordinate with local health officials to ensure that timely and accurate information is communicated at each location.

The FDA’s website is available to help answer questions, and it is updated regularly with current information for employers and workers. Questions can also be submitted directly to the FDA via www.fda.gov/FCIC (for human food) and AskCVM@fda.hhs.gov (for animal food).

David Fiske (dfiske@wwfi.com) is a senior vice president, and Lori Hunter (lhunter@wwfi.com) is an executive vice president at Worldwide Facilities, a national wholesale insurance broker, managing general agent and program underwriter.

This article first appeared on Worldwide Facilities’ blog and is republished here with the authors’ consent. 

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