By David Fairfield, Senior Vice President, Feed
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted a webinar on Sept. 1 to highlight key aspects of the FDA/OSHA Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist for Human Food Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic and provide an update on FDA inspections.
During the webinar, agency officials emphasized that the checklist previously released on Aug. 18 is not a standard or regulation, and creates no new legal obligations for employers or facility operators. Instead, the checklist describes existing recommendations as well as mandatory safety and health standards. In addition, officials stressed that not all items included in the checklist are relevant to all types of food operations. Therefore, food facilities that utilize the checklist should consider those topics and questions that apply to their specific operations.
The checklist was developed from existing guidance provided by the FDA, CDC and OSHA, and is broken into two distinct sections:
- Employee Health and Social Distancing: This section focuses on employee health, screening and operation configuration for social distancing to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 based upon guidelines provided by CDC and OSHA.
- Food Safety: This section highlights food safety requirements found in existing regulations that can assist the food industry in assessing the potential impact of COVID-19-related operational changes on food safety practices. Such operational changes that could affect food safety adversely include closures, changes among food safety staff, or changes to suppliers or ingredients.
Significantly, FDA officials during the webinar stated that the checklist will not be used during human or animal food facility inspections for compliance and enforcement purposes. However, FDA said its investigators will notify facilities of the availability of the checklist when conducting inspections and encourage firms to consider the information it contains. As previously reported by NGFA, FDA during the week of July 20 resumed routine inspections of domestic facilities, and is following the White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again and CDC guidance for protecting workplace exposures when scheduling and conducting its field activities. While conducting such inspections during the pandemic, FDA has adopted the practice of preannouncing visits so facilities can prepare appropriately.