FDA Provides Reopening Recommendations but Continues to Postpone Inspections
Updated: May 21
With businesses beginning to reopen across the U.S., FDA has published Best Practices for Reopening Retail Food Establishments a food safety re-opening checklist and refrigerated transport vehicle cleaning guidelines. However, despite the reopenings, FDA has stated that it would continue to postpone domestic and foreign routine food facility surveillance inspections.
During the postponement of inspections, FDA will continue to utilize and implement alternative inspection tools and approaches, such as records evaluation. It will continue to conduct mission-critical inspections which are identified on a case-by-case basis and conducted with appropriate safety measures in place. FDA’s leadership team also meets daily the discuss COVID-19, and the agency is collaborating with CDC to develop a process for its return to on-site inspections in accordance with White House criteria. (CDC also just published a guide to “Opening America” based on the White House plan.) Once FDA restarts inspections, the agency expects to take “a phased approach driven by scientific data” which protects the workforces of FDA, state health departments and the regulated industries.
To assist retail food establishments in reopening, FDA has developed a food safety re-opening checklist. While addressing key food safety practices, FDA notes that the list is not comprehensive, rather – as TAG has been stating – the food establishments should partner with local regulatory/health authorities to discuss their specific requirements prior to re-opening.
The FDA Best Practices List includes:
Employee Wellness. Have employees stay home if sick. Consider conducting health checks prior to starting work and check for symptoms like fever, cough, and difficulty breathing (See TAG’s full list of symptoms). All employees should wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; not touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands; wear cloth face coverings; and follow state or local guidelines.
Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and common areas frequently; clean and sanitize equipment like ice machines and ice bins. Prepare and use sanitizers and disinfectants according to label instructions. Avoid high-touch items (e.g., ketchup bottles, utensils, salt/pepper shakers, and reusable menus) by using single-service items.
Social Distance. Restrict the number of workers, customers and visitors in both customer and worker areas to maintain at least a six-foot distance between people. Increase utensil disinfection and cleaning frequency at self-service stations/buffets. Minimize contact at check-out and pay stations. Mark six-foot distances with floor tape and temporarily move workstations to create more distance, consider installing partitions, if feasible.
Pick-Up & Delivery. Maintain food time and temperature controls. Initiate no-touch deliveries and payments. Designate pick-up zones.
Physical Facility. Ensure premises are operational and in good working order. Clean, disinfect, and sanitize throughout the facility before re-opening. Monitor for pests.
The pandemic has brought with it numerous challenges, some that we would never have previously considered, such as that referenced in FDA’s recent guidance on Returning Refrigerated Transport Vehicles and Refrigerated Storage Units to Food Uses After Using Them to Preserve Human Remains During the COVID-19 Pandemic. What this means for the food industry is that supply chain programs now need to consider a vast range of food safety issues based on activities during the pandemic as well as geographic and facility-specific risk factors.
TAG has a depth of expertise and experience in both supply chain risk assessments and COVID-19 challenges and solutions. Give us a call for assistance with your program.
About The Acheson Group (TAG)
Led by former FDA Associate Commissioner for Foods Dr. David Acheson, TAG is a food safety and public health consulting group that provides guidance and expertise worldwide for companies throughout the food supply chain. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, TAG’s public health and infectious disease expertise has been brought to the forefront to assist food businesses weather the increased challenges of employee protection, food safety, and business continuity. With in-depth industry knowledge combined with real-world experience and advanced virtual technologies, TAG’s team of experts helps companies assess their unique situation, address gaps, and deploy best practices to more effectively mitigate risks, improve operational efficiencies, and protect their brand. www.AchesonGroup.com