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FDA and OSHA publish pandemic checklist to assist food industry

Kim Bousquet Melissa Gold August 25, 2020

On August 19, 2020, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a checklist entitled “Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist for Human and Animal Food Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The agencies note that the checklist is not exhaustive, is not a standard, is not a regulation and does not create new legal obligations. Instead, the checklist pulls from existing guidance provided by the FDA, Center for Disease Control (CDC) and OSHA to serve as a quick reference to help the food industry asses employee health, social distancing and food safety within workplaces as operations may be impacted by COVID-19.

The checklist is broken into two distinct sections:

  • The first section focuses on employee health, screening and operation configuration for social distancing to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 based on guidelines provided by CDC and OSHA.

  • The second section highlights food safety requirements, found in existing regulations, that can help the food industry assess the potential impact of COVID-19-related operational changes on food safety practices.

We have summarized the series of questions as actionable steps below. See the full checklist linked above for the full language and hyperlinked resources.

Section 1: Employee Health

General

  • Develop a COVID-19 assessment and control plan as recommended by CDC and OSHA.

  • Identify a workplace coordinator to coordinate COVID-19 employee health and social distancing activities.

  • Provide employees with a clear point of contact to report symptoms or illness. This point of contact will also serve as a consultant as to how one returns to work following home isolation.

  • Establish practices to assess employee health prior to and/or upon arrival to work.

  • Establish practices following potential or actual exposure to COVID-19.

  • Establish practices to protect workers who are at increased risk of severe illness.

Facilities

  • Ensure that work environment is generally free of OSHA recognized safety and health hazards.

For all personnel

  • Ensure all personnel are provided basic COVID-19 prevention information and training in a language and at a literacy level they understand (whether posters, flyers or CDC videos).

  • Ensure enough facilities are available to implement the CDC and OSHA recommended handwashing practices.

  • Ensure enhanced disinfectants are used on frequently touched surfaces.

  • Consider reducing the surfaces that employees touch by adding “no touch” features, where feasible.

  • Develop a social distancing procedure.

  • Consider whether personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary.

  • Develop a face mask or face covering procedure and consider training on such a procedure.

  • Evaluate your sick leave policy to make sure all infected workers are not penalized for taking sick leave.

  • Evaluate your compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance regarding compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act during the pandemic.

  • Establish procedures surrounding shared transportation of workers, if applicable.

For persons who are symptomatic or develop symptoms at work

  • Establish procedures requiring symptomatic workers to stay home or go home if they develop symptoms during the work day.

  • Establish contact tracing procedures at work.

  • Establish notification procedures to co-workers of possible exposure and next steps.

  • Establish procedures to clean and disinfect surfaces used by sick person.

Employee exposure investigation and testing

  • Establish procedures for pre-screening and testing employees

Work environment configuration

  • Evaluate if you can configure the work environment in your operation so that workers can maintain social distance.

  • Evaluate if you can consult with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning engineer to ensure or adjust ventilation to minimize potential exposure without compromising food safety.

  • Evaluate impact of pedestal, hard-mounted or personal cooling fans.

Section 2: Food Safety

Food Safety or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan

  • Evaluate if any changes to your (i) ingredient suppliers, (ii) ingredients, (iii) food products, (iv) operations or (v) procedures that may require you to consider new hazards.

Personnel

  • Verify qualifications of those who perform key roles and responsibilities that impact food safety.

  • Develop plan to operate and produce safe food with a reduced workforce.

Suppliers and Incoming Ingredients

  • Consider if any changes are needed to your incoming ingredient verification procedures, allergen controls and nutrient toxicity or deficiency controls.

Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) requirements

  • Evaluate procedures regarding frequency of employee handwashing and sanitizing.

  • If re-opening, evaluate plants and grounds to ensure buildings and areas surrounding buildings are appropriately maintained to protect against contamination.

  • If re-opening, evaluate ongoing functionality and safety as to pest control, water, plumbing, sanitary facilities, sanitation, equipment, and/or utensils.

Please contact us if you have additional questions.

Kim Bousquet and Melissa Gold are members of the Firm’s business litigation group.

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