Food processing and COVID
Food processing refers to the transformation of agricultural products into food, or the transformation of one form of food into other forms. The grinding grain, the making of raw flour, and the complex industrial methods used to make convenience foods all represent a form of food processing. Food processing is designated as critical infrastructure, permitted to continue operations during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that workers in Food Processing may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, provided they have not had a positive test result for COVID-19, and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. All food processing worksites should incorporate relevant aspects of CDC guidance, including but not limited to measures such as the identifying of a qualified workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues, help develop plans for implementing infection control procedures and help assess the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace, including absenteeism at work. Moreover, basic infection control information and training should be provided for all workers in a language at a literacy level they understand. For instance, the distinction between respirators, which are required for workers performing some jobs in the food sector, and disposable face masks (such as surgical or medical masks) which are required in other jobs must be clarified by employers through training. Employers must check temperatures and assess symptoms of workers before entering the facility. Workers who have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath should stay home or go home if they develop symptoms during the work day. Employers should close off areas used by the person who is sick, clean and disinfect the worker's workspace and open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the exposed area, if reasonable given food safety regulations. Collect information about the infected worker's contacts among co-workers for the period starting two days prior to symptom onset to identify who could be considered exposed. If no fever or other COVID-19 symptoms are present, workers should self-monitor for the onset of symptoms during their shift. Good Manufacturing Practices and well-proven food safety regulations and practices are the basis of expert opinion that regards food supply as being safe and wholesome.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The World Health Organization (WHO), and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assert that there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19 regardless of the status of the worker in the plant. However, it remains important to always follow good hygiene practices when handling or preparing food. This includes thorough cleaning and sanitation of food processing equipment and facilities, washing hands and surfaces often, separating raw meat from other food, cooking to the right temperature, and refrigerating foods promptly.