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COVID-19 is already changing the way we interact with and produce food. As we each look to control the spread and impact of COVID-19, there are many questions around the risks associated with food production and to our employees to ensure that a safe and robust food supply is maintained for the public. Below you can find frequently asked questions by the food industry related to COVID-19 and answers to those questions. We will continue to provide updates to these resources as the situation changes and new information becomes available.

Visit our Food Industry Resources page for links with more information.

Visit our Food Facility COVID-19 Strategy Checklist page for a checklist for food processing companies.

Visit our NYS Laws & Regulations page for current information on regulatory requirements.


Jump to a Specific Question

Persistence of COVID-19

Employee Policies

What to do When an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Facility Procedures

Testing

Audits & Inspections

Delivery & Shipping

Dairy-related

Meat & Seafood-related

Other


Persistence of COVID-19

Q: Can COVID-19 virus survive on cardboard packaging?

(Posted 3/19/20)

We know that the virus can survive on surfaces for varying levels of time, but the virus survives for a shorter time on cardboard compared to stainless steel (New England Journal of Medicine). In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces (less than 3 days), there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures (CDC, Coronavirus Disease 2019 [COVID-19], Frequently Asked Questions). Transmission of COVID-19 occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through fomites (CDC). There are no known cases of transmission through cardboard, and there is no recommendation for specific interventions to address transmission through cardboard materials. Although, it is still important during this time to reinforce GMPs like washing your hands often, proper respiratory hygiene, and not touching your face when handling these types of items.

Q: How long can COVID-19 remain viable on different surfaces?

(Posted 3/18/20)

Results of a recent study are reporting similar stability of COVID-19 on different surfaces as closely related coronavirus SARS. The highest stability of COVID-19 was observed on plastic (72h) followed by stainless steel (48h). COVID-19 was much less stable on cardboard (24h) and copper (4h). COVID-19 was also test in aerosols where after 3h experiment viable COVID-19 was still detected. Based on these results, it is critical that proper hand and respiratory hygiene practices, as well as social distancing, are followed. Facilities should actively maintain routine, scheduled cleaning and sanitization of both production and non-production areas. Particular focus on high risk areas (restrooms, break rooms, locker rooms, first aid areas, etc) and surfaces (door knobs, hand rails, telephones, faucets, electronics, etc) that employees regularly come in contact with, warrant cleaning and disinfection on a regular and frequent schedule.

Q: Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the food we produce?

(Posted 3/18/20)

Currently there is no evidence that suggests that COVID-19 is transmitted through food consumption, according to the FDA, CDC, and European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). Experience with other coronaviruses suggests these viruses survive poorly on surfaces, and thus there is a very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.

Q: Will pasteurization kill COVID-19?

(Posted 3/18/20)

Scientific reports are indicating that standard pasteurization at 63⁰C for 30 min is sufficient to inactivate SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, both similar to COVID-19.

Q: Will freezing kill COVID-19?

(Posted 3/18/20)

It is unlikely that freezing alone would be effective against COVID-19, however as detailed by the CDC, there currently is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food products that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at frozen temperatures.

Q: Is UV effective against COVID-19?

(Posted 3/18/20)

Scientific reports are indicating some dosages and wavelengths of UV can be effective against SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, both similar to COVID-19, however the same studies are reporting that other wavelengths of UV and reduced dosages are completely ineffective. Use of UV in any application cannot be used as a standalone hurdle and cannot be used to replace any of the basic measures required to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including handwashing, cleaning, chemical sanitizing, pasteurization, exclusion of ill workers from the work environment and social distancing. As detailed by CDC, conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate COVID-19. UV treatment of municipal drinking water is not necessary to assure absence of COVID-19.


Employee Policies

Q: Food industry employee lives with a household member who is a health care worker and is treating COVID-19 positive patients; Can the food industry employee still come to work?

(Posted 3/30/20)

The primary concern here is transferring the virus to other employees at the facility, NOT contaminating the food. It is important to proceed in a manner that maintains the privacy of the employee, the suggested course of action is:

  1. Confirm the employee and their household have already implemented procedures to minimize risk of transmission at home recommended by CDC, NY DOH, or the health care facility the household member works for.
  2. You should consider to either monitor or ask the employ to self-monitor for symptoms (cough, fever >100.4 F, shortness of breath). If they begin to show symptoms, they should stay home and seek guidance from their health care provider.
  3. Ensure the employee is aware to confidentially contact management if their household member begins to present symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive for COVID-19. If the household member tests positive for COVID-19, it is recommended to have the employee stay home and contact their public health provider.
  4. If you have employees whose household member works in healthcare, you may consider having them work from home.

Q: How do I encourage social distancing even though my employees work together every day and are very familiar with each other?

(Posted 3/30/20)

The exposure to COVID-19 can be greatly minimized by social distancing (maintaining 6 feet or greater distance). The key here is thinking that even though you work with the same people every day, you don’t know who they’ve been unintentionally exposed to when they are not at work. Social distancing can present a problem among employees because familiarity of workers tends to result in them dropping their guard. A conscious effort needs to be instituted and supervisors should be ensuring these practices are always happening. A training session of all employees should be initiated to encourage social distancing and provide the benefits of it. While the term is ‘social distancing’ it should be emphasized that social interaction between workers is allowed as long as it is done from a recommended safe distance of 6 feet. More information on social distancing is also addressed in this question: Are there guidance documents for how to do social distancing in food processing facilities?

Q: Should my employees use gloves or wash their hands?

(Posted 3/26/20)

Employees in food processing facilities should continue to follow good manufacturing practices such as frequent hand washing and good personal hygiene. If disposable gloves are worn as part of the routine procedures in an individual facility, employees must wash their hands before using the gloves. Gloves must be changed anytime they become contaminated, this includes anytime the gloves touch your face, hair and any filth. Hands should be washed before and after preparing food and gloves should be changed. It is important to recognize that gloves do not prevent cross-contamination and therefore by themselves do not prevent the spread of illness from one employee to another.

Q: Are there guidance documents for how to do social distancing in food processing facilities?

(Posted 3/24/20)

Food manufacturers are encouraged to develop a site-specific social distancing plan. In order to manage risks to employees it is critical for food manufacturing facilities to closely review current policies and procedures relative current knowledge of the risks. Companies should review and amend current policies based on our knowledge of the virus and CDC and FDA guidelines. Ultimately, each facility will need to implement their own policies tailored to their specific facilities and risks.

Examples of guidance include our Food Facility COVID-19 Strategy Checklist, and Food Northwest's Social Distancing in Food Manufacturing Facilities. Technical, Organizational, and Personnel measures all need to be considered in a plan. Examples of topics to include in a social distancing plan are: change management; a list of frequently touched surfaces; mitigating risks through shift adjustments; meal/snacking considerations; streamlining monitoring activities; and office and clerical work.

Q: I offer an essential service that requires me to go to other businesses. How can I protect myself against COVID-19?

(Posted 3/24/20)

COVID-19 is spread mainly from person-to-person and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The best ways to avoid the spread is to clean your hands often, avoid close contact with others (maintain 6 feet of distance), and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Clean your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public space. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Be sure to wash your hands and avoid touching your face, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces including tables, doorknobs, light switches countertops, handles, phones, keyboards, faucets, etc. You may consider bringing your own cleaner and disinfectant with you when traveling to different sites. This way you can disinfect frequently touched surfaces that you must come into contact with.

Q: Should I check my employee's temperature to screen for COVID-19?

(Updated 3/22/20)

If your employee has visible symptoms, or has reported that they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you do not need to take their temperature. Immediately segregate them from other employees, send them home, and have them reach out to their primary care provider for evaluation. 

If your employee is not showing symptoms but has come in contact with someone who is being tested for COVID-19, but has not been confirmed to be positive yet, consider sending them home until the results of the test are known, or following the info below.

If your employee has recently (past 14 days) been on a cruise, traveled out of the area to/from high risk regions, and is not showing any visible symptoms, you may consider screening them using a NON-CONTACT thermometer. If they have a temperate of > 100.4 F, immediately segregate them from other employees, send them home, and have them reach out to their primary care provider for evaluation. FDA is aware of availability issues with non-contact thermometers at the moment; if you cannot acquire one, work with your local health department.

Q: Should my employee’s wear masks to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread?

(Posted 3/20/20)

CDC does not recommend the routine use of surgical masks or respirators, such as N95 masks. Furthermore, FDA is reporting a shortage of masks, and they should be conserved for health care professionals that are at high risk of being exposed to the virus. Because the spread of respiratory viruses from person-to-person happens among close contacts (within 6 feet), it is recommended that employee’s practice appropriate social distance and proper respiratory hygienic procedures.


What to do When an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Q: Should I have all of my employees vacate the processing facility if one of my employees tests positive for COVID-19?

(Posted 4/2/20)

Current guidelines from the FDA and NYS Department of Health do not include having employees vacate the facility after a COVID-19 positive case in a Food Manufacturing Facility. The only recommendations in this situation are to immediately perform cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces throughout the area and contact your local health department.

CDC guidelines on cleaning and disinfection of Community Facilities with Suspected or Confirmed case of COVID-19 are recommending closing off areas visited by the ill persons and to wait 24 hours or as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection. CDC states that these guidelines are NOT to be followed when specific guidance already exists. Food Manufacturing Facilities have specific guidance set by the FDA and State Health Departments when a COVID-19 positive employee is identified, and these are the guidelines that should be followed. It is particularly important to follow these guidelines and NOT the CDC guidelines when it comes to opening the outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area; there are other food safety risks associated with outside environment.

The only example where Food Manufacturing Facilities might consider having their employees vacating an area of the processing facility is when a COVID-19 positive employee or an employee with all typical COVID-19 symptoms, including cough, fever and shortness of breath, was working in a room or a small area for prolonged time.

It is unknown how long the air inside a room occupied by someone with confirmed COVID-19 remains potentially infectious. Facilities will need to consider factors such as the size of the room and ventilation system design when deciding how long to close off room or area used by the ill person before beginning the cleaning and disinfection. Taking measures to improve ventilation in an area or room, without opening the outside windows or doors, will help shorten the time it takes respiratory droplets to be removed from the air.

If your facility has a COVID-19 positive case, and you would like to speak with a member of our IFS team, use the contact list below:

Q: What should be done if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

(Updated 3/23/20)

If an employee or individual currently working, or recently present, within your facility is confirmed by a laboratory to be positive for COVID-19, immediately notify your local health department. Ensure that all sensitive surfaces and areas are immediately cleaned and disinfected. Your local health department will be involved in monitoring the employee or individual while symptomatic and under isolation until they recover. The local health department will be involved in clearing fully recovered employees from isolation before they can return to work.

Identify employees who came into close contact with the positive individual, inform them of their potential exposure, while maintaining the privacy of the positive individual’s identity.

Have them contact their health care provider, and the local health department will provide further guidance on monitoring and segregation.

Q: If a food manufacturing employee tests positive for COVID-19, do we have to put product on hold?

(Posted 3/20/20)

No, because there is no evidence that suggests COVID-19 is transmitted through food consumption, according to the FDA, CDC, and European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). 

The primary goal is to prevent person-to-person transmission. Therefore, if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality. Sick employees should follow the CDC’s ‘What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)’. Employers should consult with the local health department for additional guidance.


Facility Procedures

Q: Do I have to update my Food Safety Plan to specifically address COVID-19 in the Risk Assessment?

(Posted 3/31/20)

Risk Assessments performed by FDA, CDC, European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and other agencies around the world suggest that COVID-19 is not transmitted through food consumption. This information can be included in your Risk Assessment if you wish to update your Food Safety Plan. However, with the extremely low food safety risk and the low risk to the consumer (supported by USDA and FDA position documents that state that COVID-19 is not foodborne) there is no need to make any modifications to your current Food Safety Plan.

The primary risk with COVID-19 is transmission from person-to-person. Hence, make sure you have a strategy in place to reduce this type of risk to the employee, including (i) an SOP for cleaning and sanitizing frequently Touched Surfaces (with an associated list of frequently touched surfaces covered by this SOP), and (ii) an SOP for procedures to follow when employee is tested for and/or tests positive for COVID-19. Visit this page to find an example of a Food Facility COVID-19 Strategy Checklist and additional resources.

This is good time to remind your employees to keep practicing social distancing, frequently wash their hands, avoid touching their face, cover their mouth and nose with a handkerchief or a sleeve when sneezing or coughing, and to stay home if they have any symptoms.

Q: Our facility is over 500,000 square feet. Accordingly, do you have a perspective on whether a confirmed case would require complete cleaning of the facility or only those areas the employee may have had contact with?

(Posted 3/30/20)

Continue performing your regular cleaning and sanitizing procedures of your facility according to your regular schedule. This is a good time to review and verify you have proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures and frequencies in place. After you receive information about your employee being positive for COVID-19, perform additional cleaning and sanitizing of those areas the employee had contact with.

The key is to prevent transmission of COVID-19 among your employees. Evaluate who are other employees that the positive person had contact with. See our SOP on when an employee is tested for or tests positive for COVID-19. Use this case to make sure your employees are following the recommendations for social distancing, frequent hand washing and avoiding touching their face. More information on social distancing is also addressed in this question: Are there guidance documents for how to do social distancing in food processing facilities?

Q: Should I modify how HVAC is operated and maintained in my facility to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19?

(Posted 3/30/20)

Proper social distancing of 6 feet is sufficient to prevent transfer of infection from person-to-person by physical contact as well as airborne droplets. A functional HVAC system already in place as part of your GMPs is additionally reducing the risk of transmission through airborne droplets. There is no need to modify any part of your HVAC system including any change to the frequency of replacing the filters and other preventative maintenance. Verify proper SOPs for maintaining the HVAC system are in place and followed. This is good time to make sure your employees are practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing, covering their mouth and nose with a handkerchief or a sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Also make sure your employees are self-assessing for symptoms before coming to work.

Q: I am afraid my third-party cleaning and sanitation company will be shut down due to COVID-19. How do I prepare for that?

(Posted 3/30/20)

As coronavirus cases increase, third-party cleaning companies may be faced with difficulties in cleaning a variety of businesses and may even refuse to undertake the work if there is a positive case. Thus, to remain operational, it is imperative that your business has a cleaning/sanitizing protocol (conducted in-house by in-house employees) ready before this situation occurs. The steps to prepare for this would be a review of your Master Sanitation Schedule. Commonly touched areas should be added to this schedule: door handles, light switches, counters, etc. A cleaning and sanitizing procedure should be developed based on traffic in these areas. Frequency and a cleaning procedure should be determined and an SOP should be developed. You may have to assign and train more than one person to this task. You know your business best and will be best able to accommodate for any irregularities that may be missed by third-party companies.

Q: I’ve implemented a new procedure to more frequently sanitize frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door knobs) in my facility to prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19. Do I have to clean these surfaces every time before I use a sanitizer on them?

(Updated 3/23/30)

Frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and light switches, represent potential transfer points of contamination between individuals that are otherwise practicing currently recommended social distancing of minimum 6 feet. Hence, it is important to identify these potential transfer points in the production facility and develop and implement SOPs or protocols to assure that these points are cleaned and sanitized with enhanced frequency.
 
Our suggestion is to have a separate procedure/SOP for “Enhanced sanitation of frequently touched surfaces to prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19”, which is distinct from routine SSOPs that are already in place. If surfaces are smooth and impervious with no apparent accumulation of soils, enhanced sanitation of these surfaces can occur without prior cleaning. However, it is essential that regular routine cleaning and sanitation of these frequently touched surfaces continues as specified in the SSOPs. Importantly, cleaning of these surfaces still needs to occur when the regular (non-enhanced) cleaning is performed.

For further information, we have developed a Food Facility COVID-19 Strategy Checklist page that includes a list of Frequently Touched Surfaces in a processing plant and general guidance for cleaning and sanitizing of these surfaces.

Q: Can cleaning and sanitizing supplies still be used after the expiration date?

(Posted 3/20/20)

In most cases cleaning and sanitizing supplies can still be used after the expiration date however this depends on the type of chemical and the time since it expired. You should always consult with your supplier to make sure the chemicals are still preforming as intended and for the ways of testing activity.

Q: How much can I delay my scheduled Preventive Maintenance and still be safe?

(Posted 3/20/20)

It is strongly recommended to not delay your scheduled Preventive Maintenance. Make a plan of how to prioritize different parts of Preventive Maintenance based on your experience and risk and consult with an expert on your final plan.

Q: Can ingredients that are close or past the expiration date be used to make my product?

(Posted 3/20/20)

Anytime there is a substitution or change in formulation, the food safety of your product should be evaluated, as inherent food safety characteristics may have changed. Changes in formulation should be reviewed by a process authority. Anytime you want to use an ingredient that is close or past the expiration date you also need a process authority review. Our team can provide process authority services in case you need to change processes and/or formulations due to COVID-19 related challenges. For more information visit the Cornell Food Venture Center and for dairy-related process authority services contact Rob Ralyea. For those outside of New York, the Association of Food and Drug Officials has assembled a list of food process authorities around the country by state and territory. It can be found here. If you have problems getting help, contact us and we will attempt to assist.


Testing

Q: Is environmental sampling essential during this time of crisis?

(Updated 3/23/2020)

Even with this COVID-19 crisis, environmental pathogens remain a potential risk in the processing environment and to food. Environmental pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella species continue to represent a threat to the consumer. It is more essential than ever to keep your environmental monitoring program functional. Consult with your laboratory to find out what is their testing capacity. If their testing capacity is reduced adjust your sampling plan to prioritize higher risk areas within your sampling plan.

Q: Should we test surfaces in our processing facility for COVID-19?

(Posted 3/20/20)

It is not advised to test surfaces for COVID-19. General Cleaning and Sanitizing procedures that are part of every food processing operation are sufficient to remove and inactivate COVID-19. COVID-19 is not an environmental pathogen or considered a foodborne risk. COVID-19 is spreading mainly through person-to-person contact including through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. However, now is a good time to review and if needed update your cleaning and sanitation verification procedures, including ATP testing to verify cleaning. Visit the following pages to find information on verifying your Cleaning and Sanitation.

Q: Our routine lab cannot process all of my samples. How do I decide what to test and what not to test?

(Posted 3/18/20)

In the event of limitations on the volume of laboratory testing available to a manufacturer (for example, due to supply shortages) it may be necessary to prioritize which routine samples should be tested. Taking a risk based approach is appropriate in this circumstance and may include prioritizing testing of high risk environmental locations (for example, high hygiene areas) within a food processing facility over low risk environmental locations.


Audits & Inspections

Q: My facility is GFSI certified. How will audits be handled for the next 2 months?

(Updated 3/30/20)

All of the GFSI-recognized food safety certification programs (SQF, BRC, FSSC 22000, etc.) have issued official positions on how they are handling new certifications and re-certifications in response to the current pandemic and these are posted on their websites. We recommend contacting your certification body to discuss your options as they are in direct communications with the certification program owners.
 
SQF has in place a means to defer certification due to extenuating circumstances. This system was used recently for the Australian bushfires and it is used for individual extension requests when facilities have floods and fires. All requests for certificate extension must come from the certification body. At this time, SQF is only reviewing requests that are within 30 days of the certification audit date. Unannounced audits can be changed to announced for 2020, but you will have to have a mandatory unannounced audit in 2021. Additionally, SQF sites scheduled to have an audit before April 30 can ask for an extension of up to 3 months. These requirements can also change based upon how the situation continues to unfold.
 
Another thing to keep in mind is the message you may be sending out to your customers and employees by postponing your audit, certification or re-certification; some may see this as a sign that typical food safety practices can be relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This option should be used as a last resort.

Q: Is New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets still conducting inspections?

(Posted 3/25/20)

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets continues its operations and inspections and is in constant contact with NYS farms and agri-businesses. Consumers are encouraged to remain strong in their support of local farms and agri-businesses during this time. To access guidance documents that are specific to the food industry in NYS click here.

Q: Will I still be inspected by the FDA during this time period?

(Posted 3/22/20)

The FDA has temporarily postponed all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections. These are facility inspections traditionally conducted every few years based on a risk analysis. Importantly, all domestic for-cause inspection assignments will be evaluated and will proceed if mission-critical. The FDA will continue to respond to natural disasters, outbreaks and other significant public health risks such as Class I recalls and other emergencies involving FDA-regulated products. During this interim period the FDA is evaluating additional ways to conduct inspection work that would not jeopardize public safety and protecting both the firms and the FDA staff. This can include, among other things, evaluating records in lieu of conducting an onsite inspection on an interim basis when travel is not permissible, when appropriate.

The FDA is postponing most foreign inspections through April, effective immediately. Inspections outside the U.S. deemed mission-critical will still be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Delivery & Shipping

Q: With trucking pick-ups and deliveries scheduled daily at my food processing and/or farm facility, how do I take steps to protect myself, my employees, and my workplace from potential infection COVID-19?

(Posted 3/30/20)

The primary concern here is transferring the virus from person-to-person; this includes protecting employee from potentially infected delivery person as well as protecting the delivery person from potentially infected employee. Delivery person and employees working on receiving the deliveries should follow the basic rules for reducing the risk of transfer of COVID-19.

Social Distancing:

  • Keep distance of 6 feet from all people involved during all items. Establish a protocol of receiving and make sure your delivery company is aware of it. Delivery person should stay in their vehicles as much as possible.
  • If delivery person is responsible for unloading the delivery vehicle make sure they are (i) using their own tools to do so, (ii) if you have to provide tools like trollies and dollies make sure these tools are designated only for that purpose, are clearly marked, stored away from other tools employee use, and available to the delivery person without the need for assistance from employee. The delivery person should not enter the facility but instead only unload the material out of the transport vehicle. After unloading the delivery person should continue on their way or if needed to stay, do so in the transport vehicle. Employee from the facility should bring the material into the facility using their own tools. If possible, the outer layer of the transport packaging, i.e. shrink foil and cardboard, should be removed before bringing the material into the facility. There is no need to sanitize any part of transport packaging, inside packaging or working gloves. Consider providing separate working gloves to each employee working on the receiving.
  • If facility employees are responsible for unloading the delivery vehicle, the delivery person should first open the vehicle using their own tools, i.e. working gloves. After the delivery person returns to the vehicle the employee should start unloading the transport vehicle using their own tools. If possible, the outer layer of the transport packaging, i.e. shrink foil and cardboard, should be removed before bringing the material into the facility. There is no need to sanitize any part of transport or inside packaging.
  • Establish a protocol to have all paperwork done electronically without the need for close interaction.

Hand Hygiene:

  • Employee should wash their hands before receiving the material, after removing the outer layer of transport packaging, and after the material has been placed in its designated area. If soap and water are not available, employee should use a hand sanitizer with minimum 60% alcohol. Delivery person should have their own hand sanitizer which they should use before starting to unload the material and after they finished unloading. Delivery person should also use the sanitizer to sanitize the handles of any tools you are providing to delivery personnel. A hand sanitizer can be provided to delivery person to make sure the protocol is being followed; in this case make sure the hand sanitizer is clearly marked and designated to be only used by delivery company personnel.

All employee and delivery personnel should avoid touching their face during receiving of the material.

All employee and delivery personnel should use a handkerchief or a sleeve to limit the spread of liquid droplets in case of sneezing or coughing. Wash your hands immediately after or use a hand sanitizer with minimum 60% alcohol.

All employee and delivery personnel should self-assess for any symptoms before starting the work day and before starting the delivery and receiving. 

Q: Can I still get product to my customers through FedEx?

(Posted 3/24/20)

FedEx is considered an essential business and may continue to operate under state of emergency and shelter in place orders recently issued in the U.S. Prior to shipping, check to see if your recipient's location is open, as many commercial businesses are now closed. In the event a delivery location is closed, FedEx will follow their current operating procedures to attempt to complete delivery at a later time. You can also consider selecting a HOL (Hold on Location) address, close by to your recipient’s location. Your recipient will get a notification to pick up packages from the HOL. Given the time/temperature sensitive nature of many food products, it is important to coordinate with your customers/suppliers to ensure deliveries are received at the appropriate time.


Dairy-related

Q: We bottle milk into glass bottles and take in returns to be washed and reused. Should we be concerned about contracting COVID-19 by handling these returned bottles from our customers?

(Posted 3/19/20)

No. Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, most likely to be transmitted person-to-person. Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects for short periods of time. The critical concept to understand is that it is a respiratory disease so you’d have to provide a method for the virus to get into the lungs. This is the reason handwashing is a key component to preventing illness as well as not touching your face/mouth/nose area with your hands. It however is important that you re-inforce handwashing procedures for employees that handle returned bottles and crates; these employees should wash their hands regularly and particularly after they have completed their work. Also, refer to this question on how long the virus can live on surfaces.


Meat & Seafood-related

Q: Can animals raised for food and animal products be source of infection with COVID-19?

(Posted 3/18/20)

As detailed by the CDC, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife in the United States, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time. There is also currently no evidence to suggest that imported animals or animal products pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States.


Other

Q: How can I access the federal Paycheck Protection Program for my agricultural or food related business?

(Posted 4/3/20)

The Department of Treasury and Small Business Administration (SBA) released an interim final rule on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Agricultural producers and food processors are eligible to participate in the program and should reach out to their bankers and/or agricultural lenders to apply immediately. While SBA still needs to confirm some administrative details, loans will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis and producers and processors can get started on the application now.

The best point of contact for questions on the Paycheck Protection Program is the Lender Relations Specialist in your local SBA Field Office. Your local SBA Field Office can be found here.

Q: Does my food or beverage processing and manufacturing business, grocery store, produce auction, or farmer’s market qualify as an essential business under the State of New York’s Executive Order mandate to de-densify workplaces?

(Updated 3/30/20)

Yes. Businesses engaged in supporting food production in New York State, from farms, food manufacturing of all scales, to places of business where food sales are conducted like grocery stores, convenience stores, produce auctions, livestock markets and auctions, farm stands and farmer’s markets are considered to be essential to the food supply. These businesses are NOT subject to mandatory de-densification of employee work spaces nor are these businesses subject to restrictions on the amount of people who can gather in one space. Businesses supporting food and feed production such as food animal veterinary based clinics, food safety testing labs, and agricultural supply businesses/services and ingredient manufacturers for food businesses are similarly included within the definition of essential services. This answer has been approved by the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Additionally, the FDA and Department of Homeland Security considers food and agriculture essential. This exclusion does not mean that businesses should not make every effort to ensure appropriate sanitation and good social distancing in the place of work and place where consumers are coming to purchase food. Please refer to the resources on this page and within the FAQ for good sanitation practices and signage resources. Businesses can seek an opinion from Empire State Development Corporation as to whether their business is an essential business. Food manufacturers who are experiencing logistical challenges with transportation and the supply chain can reach out to FEMA's National Business Emergency Operations Center at NBEOC@Fema.dhs.gov.

As of 3/29/2020 the CDC issued a travel advisory for NY, NJ and CT. This new restriction on non-essential travel does NOT apply to businesses deemed essential, including food manufacture and production and the distribution of food.

Q: Can I expect to see financial relief provided to small and large scale food processing businesses and farms?

(Posted 3/20/20)

State and national governments are enacting numerous COVID-19 economic relief programs, and information in this area is changing rapidly. The federal government recently added New York State to its listing of declared national disaster areas, making businesses eligible for low interest to no interest loans here. While most of the immediate focus on disaster assistance has been to immediately unemployed personnel and various extensions of tax due dates and certain loan or debt payment extensions, the general consensus among elected leaders seems to be that some form of business assistance programs should be developed particularly for hard-hit sectors of the economy. Cornell CALS recommends following the latest news from your elected officials or the trade organizations pertinent to your sector for the most up to date information on business relief packages. In general, financial relief packages for businesses and residents tends to be provided by the federal government. Here are some helpful resources for you:

Q: How do I address my employee’s childcare situations?

(Posted 3/20/20)

As of 3/20/2020 licensed child care businesses in New York State are considered essential services and allowed to operate. Guidance can be found here. The Office of Children and Family Services provides guidance to New York State licensed child care centers during the COVID-19 crisis here. While child care centers are being given guidance to help address additional child care needs for children of essential employees, particularly in the health care fields, at the same time, child care facilities are also being asked to find ways to increase social distancing measures and improve sanitation. The Office of Children and Family Services maintains a listing of licensed day care providers to search for child care options although not all of the providers may be open during this current time. The ABCD program, which serves as a primary resource for the children of farm employee and food system employees, has announced that it will be closed until March 27th, but will re-evaluate its status on that date.


Please also refer to appropriate state and federal guidance for answers to your questions. State and federal guidance may be different than what is detailed here or may have changed since this answer was posted.


If you have specific questions around ingredients, cleaning/sanitation chemicals and procedures, personnel practices, or other food safety, supply, and distribution changes due to the impact of COVID-19, reach out to our experts:

Our team can also provide process authority services in case you need to change processes and/or formulations due to COVID-19 related challenges. For more information visit the Cornell Food Venture Center and for dairy-related process authority services contact Rob Ralyea (rdr10@cornell.edu).