A Cornell University-led project will use computer modeling and outreach to find optimal strategies to minimize COVID-19 cases and transmission among food workers in processing facilities. The university has received a two-year, $1 million grant from USDA for the study.
To explore potential solutions in real-world settings, the researchers will collaborate with a dozen meat, dairy, and produce industry partners, including Del Monte Foods, Seneca Foods Corporation, Great Lakes Cheese, and Tyson Foods.
Renata Ivanek, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s department of population medicine and diagnostic sciences says the project will address current issues while also providing valuable insights for any future disease outbreaks. “Part of the project is to investigate how segments of the food production industry differ and how to develop control strategies that will fit a specific industry segment,” Ivanek adds.
The university will also develop online extension programs for industries, courses on COVID-19, its biology, and how to control it. The Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University has already initiated “Food Industry Virtual Office Hours” that food processing facility managers may join to engage with experts on topics such as safety training for employees and using checklists to assess a facility’s safety plan.