FDA COVID-19 Briefing Summary
by Joe Johnson, on March 20,2020
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosted a phone conference for the food industry Wednesday, March 18 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Frank Yiannas, the deputy commissioner of the Office of Food Policy and Response, Michael Rogers, the assistant commissioner for human and animal food operations in the Office of Regulatory Affairs; and Dr. Susan Mayne, the director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition were leading the conversation. A few key points should be taken away from the conversation:
Transmission Through Food
There is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 via food or food packaging, as this is a respiratory virus, not gastrointestinal. Because of that fact, recalls are not anticipated if an employee of a food facility is diagnosed with COVID-19. If an employee does contract the virus it is important to follow guidelines laid out by the CDC, which mainly focuses on preventing person-to-person spread within the plant or, store. This point should give great confidence to the public in the safety of their food supply.
Inspections in the United States will be focused on mission-critical and for-cause inspections only. For example, an inspection to support a foodborne illness outbreak investigation or a Class 1 recall or outbreak related to COVID-19. This means that routine surveillance inspections will be postponed. Inspections will also be dependant upon local limitations (ie. curfews, shelter in place) and the firm’s operations. In order to better accommodate the variable hours, most inspections will be announced rather than unannounced.
In an effort to reduce close contact between patrons, restrictions have been placed on restaurants limiting most operations to delivery and carryout only. For areas in which restaurants are still open, no self-service buffets or salad bars should be made available.
Food suppliers are considered a critical infrastructure sector and should not be shut down. Reach out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance. With the demand for food rising as empty shelves cause panic, it is crucial to keep the supply chain intact. As suppliers of automated employee hygiene technology in food processing facilities across the globe, we understand the important role Meritech plays in their SSOP’s. We are taking serious precautions to ensure we can deliver the products and services needed by our customers. Check out this article about Meritech's internal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.