Updated: April 04, 2020
Today in U.S. FDA news:
To accommodate for the growing demand for eggs during the pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just released new guidance that temporarily provides packaging and labeling flexibility for shell eggs sold to consumers at retail. Read more here.
The FDA is also extending its comment period for the Laboratory Accreditation Program proposed rule. Find out more here.
Importer inspections under the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs will now be conducted remotely.
As we’d previously discussed, the FDA is scaling back on domestic inspections.
from April 03, 2020: Currently, “close contact” is referred to as someone who has been within 6 feet (2 meters) for a prolonged period of time. Time recommendations for “prolonged period of time” vary between 10 minutes – 30 minutes (to “or more”). This makes the time limit of “close contact” a little subjective. How do you calculate this for yourself and your operation?
TAG has operated with 15 minutes. We do not recommend any time limit greater than 15 minutes. 15 minutes has been echoed by other organizations, including the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and reflects existing research about risk levels.
To determine a “close contact” time, it is important for everyone to observe and be aware of the time/space of those with whom they work closely (6 feet or 2 meters), take breaks, and/or sit. It is best to be aware of the time that is being spent in close contact with others, limiting that time and maintaining social distance whenever possible. Also, it is important to wash hands properly and frequently and avoid touching the face.
the Food Industry
Six Phases of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The food industry has never had to deal with a crisis the size of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, TAG also does not see the situation getting better in the short-term. To help you understand where we are, have been, and will be, TAG sees the pandemic as having six key phases (we’re currently in the fourth):
1. Recognition of an Outbreak. At the end of December 2019, Chinese health officials contacted the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding a cluster of patients who had contracted what appeared to be a mysterious form of pneumonia. Most cases could be traced to a wholesale seafood market. By early January, Chinese authorities identified the disease as a novel coronavirus.
IMPACT. At this point, the outbreak was still confined to China. The US continues business as usual, having implemented some travel restrictions and quarantines to/from China.
2. Local Spread that Becomes Global (Pandemic). In mid-January 2020, the disease started to spread outside of China to Thailand and the U.S. Shortly after, Wuhan and the Hubei province were placed under quarantine. Through February 2020, outbreaks exploded across South Korea, Iran, Italy, and the U.S. The WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic on March 11th.
IMPACT. It was at this time that community-based transmission began in multiple parts of the world. On February 29, TAG began to issue its daily updates, providing outbreak information, key points, and recommendations to industry. As of March 11, the U.S. had at least 1,267 cases, 70 of which were repatriated from overseas (e.g. citizens evacuated from China and those from the cruise ship in Japan). The others were detected and confirmed on US soil, spread across 43 states and Washington DC. The US death toll stood at 38. The NBA suspends its season while college basketball is scheduled to play without fans; numerous conferences are postponed or canceled, and the US suspends travel from Europe.
3. Learning to Reduce Risk & Manage Challenges. While food manufacturers already had strict policies in place for keeping sick employees out of the work environment, additional strategies (including daily wellness questionnaires for symptoms and risks) have become critical. Use these measures to safeguard your workforce while continuing to emphasize food safety.
IMPACT. It is the beginning of a new normal as state after state begins setting stay-at-home restrictions while asking or mandating that non-essential personnel work from home as much as possible. Foodservice establishments become impacted as many states only allow take-out and delivery, while food retailers and manufacturers begin seeing COVID-19 cases among employees or their family members. All establishments now begin planning for increased absenteeisms.
4. Operational Changes to Manage New Risks. While the FDA maintains that the virus is not spread through food or its packaging; social distancing and strict cleaning policies must be enforced to keep employees healthy. Consider implementing mitigation strategies such as changing shifts, restricting movement and visitors, and hiring temps.
IMPACT. We are here today. We have moved from the planning phase into implementation; the food industry is coping with the risks of reduced workforce, increased hygiene and sanitation, supply chain disruptions (which may require alternate sourcing or reformulations), and concerned questions from a stressed consumer base. All while the science and recommendations continue to evolve at a daily pace.
5. Operating Under Challenging Conditions. Food manufacturing will remain essential as consumers count on a continuous supply of safe food. For a period of time - likely several months - plan for disruptions as employees get sick. Streamline hiring and training processes, stay up to date on new developments, and revisit policies and procedures as needed.
IMPACT. With expectations of three- to four-month operation and supply-chain disruptions, food businesses will need to continue maintaining both their COVID-19 mitigation policies and business continuity strategies. Any business that have not developed these policies or strategies will likely be behind and will be less able to survive throughout the crisis. (Call TAG immediately if you find yourself in that position.)
6. Recovery. While it may be several months away. there will be a day when cases of COVID-19 are sparse. We have yet to see the full impact that the virus will have on the food industry. As businesses recover, manufacturers and distributors should be prepared for restaurant re-openings and similar resurgences.
IMPACT. We don’t know when this will be or what it will look like, but we do know that businesses will be facing a new normal, and life, in general, will never be the same as Pre-COVID. But TAG will continue to be here to support your business – and drive best practices to improve operations, mitigate risks, and ensure brand protection.
Give us a call to help you weather the COVID-19 challenges and ensure the best possible recovery.
Everyone should practice social distancing (more specifically, physical distancing), not only those who are ill or at higher-risk (e.g. older individuals, pre-existing conditions) but also among healthy individuals so we may "flatten the curve".
Please feel free to use this free poster at your establishment. Please email us (email@example.com) for a copy of this poster (English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Chinese - simplified, traditional are available).
As of April 04, 2020 (10:43 ET), there are over 1,139,000 cases (>60,000 deaths) worldwide
Due to the increasing number of cases in the United States, TAG will move from reporting counts per country to focusing on the United States, please see here for the data. For further information regarding worldwide numbers, please refer to John Hopkin University’s aggregate map.
Data retrieved from CNN (April 04 @ 10:43 ET)
Keep up to date with COVID-19:
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