A new checklist drafted by a joint venture between FDA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will direct companies to best practices for FDA-regulated human and animal food operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We heard feedback from our stakeholders and the FDA-regulated industry that this would be something helpful for them, so FDA worked with OSHA and our other task force partners to create it,” Peter Cassell, FDA spokesperson, tells Food Quality & Safety.
Among the goals of the checklist are to help food companies ensure employee health and a safe workplace by investigating any possible employee exposure to the virus, determine when an employee should be tested for COVID-19, and configure the work environment in a way to minimize the risk of spreading the virus among workers.
Some of the items listed on the checklist are questions such as: “Have you identified a workplace coordinator to coordinate COVID-19 employee health and social distancing activities?” and “Have you provided employees a clear point of contact to report symptoms or illness and consult with when an employee who has been sick with COVID-19 symptoms meets the CDC criteria to end a home isolation period?” In addition, the checklist provides examples of ways to align workstations to include social distancing practices.
The reference is particularly important for those restarting operations after being shut down or for those needing to reassess operations because of changes due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. “The checklist is important because it includes important OSHA information related to the pandemic and includes a reminder that there are still food safety requirements that need to continue to be followed,” Cassell says. “It is especially important as many in the FDA-regulated industry return to operations.”
The checklist is aimed at companies involved in growing, harvesting, packing, manufacturing, processing, or holding human and animal food regulated by FDA, including produce, seafood, milk, eggs, grains, game meat, and other raw materials or ingredients, as well as their resulting human or animal food products.
FDA expects that the checklist will be used in combination with other vital food safety information released by CDC, OSHA, and other federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities.