COVID-19 External Resources

Last updated – June 22nd

Following are updates and resources provided by external experts.

  • Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Publishes Topic Page on Food And COVID-19. CDC notes there is currently no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19. Additionally, the risk of infection by the virus from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be very low. Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags. Click here for more information.
  • FDA Guidance: Voluntary Reporting of Temporary Closures or Requesting Assistance for FDA-Regulated Food Establishments During COVID-19 PandemicToday (May 28th)  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the guidance: Reporting a Temporary Closure or Significantly Reduced Production by a Human Food Establishment and Requesting FDA Assistance During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The guidance provides a mechanism for FDA-regulated establishments (human food facilities and farms), to voluntarily notify the agency of temporary closures and significant reductions in operations, or to request assistance from FDA on issues that might affect continuity of their operations during the pandemic. This guidance does not apply to restaurant and retail food establishments or to animal food operations.

Facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food for consumption in the United States, register with       FDA initially, and thereafter are required to update registration on a biennial basis or within 60 days, if certain changes in operations were to occur. In many cases, FDA may not be aware that firms are temporarily closed or need to close as a result of the pandemic. More rapid and specific notification regarding the status of FDA-regulated establishments will help FDA understand the current status of the food supply and address challenges food producers are facing during the pandemic.

For the facilities that notify FDA, the agency can provide information and guidance on worker safety, protective equipment for personnel,  and facility sanitation, among others. FDA will work with its federal government partners to provide the most up-to-date assistance.

To request assistance and/or report a closure or a reduction in operations, go to the FDA’s Food and Cosmetics Information Center.

Click here for more information.

  • FDA Announces Temporary Flexibility Policy Regarding Certain Labeling Requirements  – Today (May 22nd) the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the availability of a new guidance entitled, Temporary Policy Regarding Certain Food Labeling Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Minor Formulation Changes and Vending Machines.  It provides the temporary flexibility for the following situations.
    • Under certain conditions it provides flexibility for manufacturers to make minor formulation changes without making conforming label changes (ex. making a change to product ingredients, without updating the ingredient list on the packaged food when such a minor change is made).  Minor formulation changes should be consistent, as appropriate, with the following general factors:
      • Safety: the ingredient being substituted for the labeled ingredient does not cause any adverse health effect (including food allergens, gluten, sulfites, or other foods known to cause sensitivities in some people, for example, glutamates);
      • Quantity: generally present at 2 percent or less by weight of the finished food;
      • Prominence: the ingredient being omitted or substituted for the labeled ingredient is not a major ingredient in the product;
      • Characterizing Ingredient: the ingredient being omitted or substituted for the labeled ingredient is not a characterizing ingredient; for example, omitting raisins, a characterizing ingredient in raisin bread;
      • Claims: an omission or substitution of the ingredient does not affect any voluntary nutrient content or health claims on the label;  and
      • Nutrition/Function: an omission or substitution of the labeled ingredient does not have a significant impact on the finished product, including nutritional differences or functionality.
    • Substitution of unbleached flour for bleached flour without a corresponding label change while there continue to be bleached flour shortage.
    • FDA will not object if covered operators of the vending machine industry do not meet vending machine labeling requirements to provide calorie information for foods sold in the vending machines at this time.
  • CDC AND OSHA ISSUE JOINT COVID-19 INTERIM GUIDANCE FOR MANUFACTURING WORKERS AND EMPLOYERS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued interim guidance for manufacturing workers and employers that includes, in part, recommendations to create a COVID-19 assessment and control plan and the use of a hierarchy of controls approach to prevent worker infection. In most cases, COVID-19 assessment and control plans should include precautionary measures or processes to reduce or eliminate the hazard; installation of engineering controls; and implementation of appropriate cleaning, sanitation and disinfection practices to reduce exposure or shield workers. Click here for more information.
  • COVID-19 PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE FOR FOOD FACILITIES TEMPLATE PLAN. The Food Protection and Defense Institute (FDPI) developed a template plan for COVID-19 preparedness and response for food facilities. The template was informed by CDC guidance, written in a manner to be broadly applicable, provides insight and ideas for potential best practices, and is customizable to state, local and company regulations and policies. Please contact Weiyi Zhao for this document.
  • USDA EXTENDS TIMEFRAME FOR TEMPORARY USE OF ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION FOR THE LABELING OF FOOD REDIRECTED TO RETAIL. In its May 1 constituent update, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced it is extending its temporary use of enforcement discretion an additional 60 days, until July 26, for certain labeling and that it will not require establishments to submit such labels for temporary approval. The agency is following up on its March 27 constituent update as FSIS recognizes the ongoing challenges industry and retailers are facing with the labeling and redirection of products for distribution for retail sale. Click here for additional information on the temporary allowances for labeling at federal establishments, labeling at retail for bulk product already in commerce and labeling at retail for product in unlabeled protective coverings already in commerce.
  • USDA ADJUSTS IMPORT AND EXPORT FACILITY INSPECTIONS. On May 1, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection’s (APHIS) Field Operations temporarily modified the agency’s inspection process for live animal export facility renewals and animal product facilities. For details, go here.
  • On April 1, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided a COVID-19 Daily Roundup regarding the agency’s actions in its ongoing response effort to the pandemic. For a full list of FDA’s COVID-19 Daily Roundup announcements and for more information, click here.
  • What to Do If You Have COVID-19 Confirmed Positive or Exposed Workers in your Food Production, Storage, or Distribution Operations Regulated by FDA: CDC-derived recommendations and key steps that employers and workers can take to help stay open, prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, and support continuity of essential operations.
  • WHO – COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses [ddownload id=”4890″]
  • European Commission (EC) COVID-19 and food safety Questions and Answers [ddownload id=”4889″]