Coronavirus: preparing for food security

25 Mar 2020

As news about coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and death rates continue to evolve, many in the food and beverage industry are wondering what can be done to ensure workplace safety and health for the employees.

While there is still uncertainty about the extent of the virus’s impact on national and global food and beverage markets, the good news is that many companies already have health and safety practices in place to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

However, due to coronavirus transmission mechanisms, companies in the food and beverage industry may want to reevaluate their current safety procedures and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

Federal Food and Packaging Safety Messages In a February 27, 2020 statement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) titled Coronavirus (COVID-19) Supply Chain Update, the FDA noted that the agency “is not aware of no report of human disease suggesting COVID-19 at this time can be transmitted by food or food packaging. “

Although the statement may be reassuring to the food and beverage industry and its consumers, it does not lessen the risk of transmission from potentially infected workers handling food products.

Coronavirus workplace safety procedures A properly functioning food processing facility or restaurant should already have effective procedures in place to prevent the spread of pathogens. According to experts, some of those procedures should include:

  • Prevent workers with disease symptoms (such as the coronavirus) from handling food or entering preparation areas.

  • Ensure that workers decontaminate their hands using antimicrobial soaps instead of alcohol-based disinfectants

  • Decontamination of food surfaces that have been in contact with an infected individual

It is important to note that people infected with the coronavirus may be asymptomatic and can spread the virus through coughs, sneezes, and respiratory fluids, while otherwise showing no external signs of infection.

  For more information on how employers can address coronavirus-related workplace health and safety concerns (and maintain compliance with state and federal labor laws), read our previous article.

Responding to Food and Beverage Safety Issues It is important to remember that state and federal health officials continue to emphasize that the overall risk to individual Americans remains low, even when new cases of coronavirus are diagnosed.

Still, the food and beverage industry would be wise to consider evaluating their workplace safety measures to ensure they comply with current FDA guidelines on good manufacturing processes, standard sanitation operating procedures, and risk analysis plans. and critical control points (HACCP).