Food industry releases response guidelines for COVID-19 employees

Food industry releases response guidelines for COVID-19 employees

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Members of the Food and Beverage Issues Alliance have collaborated with the Food and Drug Administration on guidelines for food companies to follow if an employee or customer tests positive for COVID-19.

The United Fresh Produce Association, National Grocers Association and International Foodservice Distributors Association are among the 20 groups that collaborated on the document, 

The information is available on the FDA’s “Food Safety and the "Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)" webpage, under the “Workers Testing Positive” heading.

The document uses guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

“Inconsistent approaches to reacting to an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 has the potential to jeopardize our food system,” according to the document. “This document recommends a consistent approach in how a company can continue operations in the event an individual has tested positive, given the global COVID-19 pandemic and high transmissibility of this respiratory virus from person to person.”

Recommendation covering different situations include:

  • Steps to take if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms associated with it; and
  • Steps to take when an employee of facility/farm visitor tests positive or has symptoms associated with it.

Facilities should be sanitized, following standard procedures, when a case is reported. Employees who had close contact with the COVID-19-positive employee should be notified, according to the document.

According to government agencies, members of the medical community and industry organizations, there is no evidence that the virus is transmitted through food or food packaging.

“The FDA does not anticipate that food will need to be held, recalled or withdrawn from the market due to possible exposure to SARS-CoV-2 through a person that has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus that works (in) a food facility,” according to the document.

Companies should consult local and state health agencies on specific responses.

"These decisions will be based on public health risk of person-to-person transmission — not -based on food safety," according to the FDA.

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