By David Fairfield, Senior Vice President, Feed
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on March 31 hosted an animal food industry stakeholder call to discuss animal food safety and food supply questions related to COVID-19. Following is a summary of the information that was shared by the agency.
- FDA is coordinating closely across government agencies and with the industry to monitor animal food and ingredient supply chains. At this time, no significant shortages have been identified. If companies do experience supply chain issues regarding ingredients, packaging and personal protective equipment, delivery of goods or business continuity, FDA recommends contacting the FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center at nbeoc@FEMA.dhs.gov. The center is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week and can assist and direct inquiries to the proper contact.
- FDA reiterated that there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19 either to humans or animals. Further, FDA does not anticipate that animal food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market should a person who works in an animal food facility be confirmed to be positive for COVID-19.
- FDA has been interacting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure that activities associated with animal food products are included within the DHS essential critical infrastructure workforce list. This DHS list is not meant to be binding for state and local governments, but serves as a tool for local authorities to adopt or create their own list.
- Some employers have expressed concerns about what type of documentation is necessary to show that employees are essential critical infrastructure workers, especially in states that have issued shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders. In response, FDA recommends that animal food facilities work directly with their state governments to address this issue and suggested using the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) directory for state feed control officials to identify appropriate contacts.
- FDA encouraged animal food facilities to ensure the safety of their workplace by cleaning and, as necessary, sanitizing equipment and food-contact surfaces. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers sanitizers and maintains a list of disinfectant products for use against SARS-CoV-2, which is a coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
- FDA suggested that animal food facilities evaluate and implement changes when possible to increase employee separation during operations. When employee separation is not possible, workers should maintain effective hygiene practices to reduce the chance of spreading the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly updates its interim guidance for businesses and employers to plan and respond to coronavirus, which includes updates to cleaning and disinfecting guidance and best practices for conducting social distancing.
- FDA noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a guidance for preparing work places for COVID-19 that includes information on how a COVID-19 outbreak could affect workplaces and steps employers can take to reduce workers’ exposure to that risk. In addition, FDA recommended that animal food facilities follow cleaning protocols set by local and state health departments, which may vary depending on the amount and spread of COVID-19 in a given area.
- FDA said that if a worker has tested positive for COVID-19 in a food facility, the agency does not believe there is a need to conduct environmental testing for the virus for the purposes of animal food safety. This is because there currently is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.
- FDA has temporarily postponed all domestic and foreign routine surveillance inspections of animal food facilities. However, FDA continues to conduct activities deemed to be mission critical, such as investigating Class I recall situations and addressing public health emergencies. In addition, FDA during this time plans to pre-announce all mission-critical domestic inspections.
- FDA provides resources on its main coronavirus page and updates its FAQ documents frequently. FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has a separate coronavirus page for questions that are specific to animal food, animal drugs and animal safety. In addition, questions about animal food safety may be submitted to CVM by email at askCVM@FDA.hhs.gov.