COVID-19

COVID-19 Resources for the Food Industry

As we each look to control the spread and impact of coronavirus, there are many questions around the risks associated with food production and to our employees to ensure that a safe and robust food supply is maintained for the public. Below is general guidance for food producers and links to expert resources to address your specific questions. More resources and further updates can be found at the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the food we produce?

Currently there is no evidence that suggests that COVID-19 is transmitted through food consumption, according to the CDC, FDA, and European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).   Experience with other coronaviruses suggests these viruses survive poorly on surfaces, and thus there is a very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.

What should be implemented within my facility to protect my employees and production from COVID-19?

First, ensure you have a proactive sick leave policy.  If an employee show signs of illness (cough, fever, shortness of breath) require them to stay home and perform job relevant tasks remotely. It is important to keep them segregated from other employees in roles that do not require food contact or close interaction with others. If possible, use a non-contact thermometer to screen employee temperatures when they report to and leave work.  Those with elevated temperatures (>100.4 °F) should be segregated from other employees and they should contact their healthcare provider.

It has been reported that asymptomatic individuals can spread COVID-19.  It is critical that proper hand and respiratory hygiene practices, as well as social distancing, are followed.  Facilities should actively maintain routine, scheduled cleaning and sanitization of both production and non-production areas. Particular focus on high risk areas (restrooms, break rooms, locker rooms, first aid areas, etc) and surfaces (door knobs, hand rails, telephones, faucets, electronics, etc) that employees regularly come in contact with, warrant cleaning and disinfection on a regular and frequent schedule.

What should be done if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

If an employee or individual currently working, or recently present, within your facility is confirmed by a laboratory to be positive for COVID-19, immediately notify your local health department.  Ensure that all sensitive surfaces and areas are immediately cleaned and disinfected.

Your local health department will be involved in monitoring the employee or individual while symptomatic and under isolation until they recover. The local health department will be involved in clearing fully recovered employees from isolation before they can return to work. The local health department may provide further guidance on monitoring and segregating employees who came into close contact with positive individuals.

If you have specific questions around ingredients, cleaning/sanitation chemicals and procedures, personnel practices, or other food safety, supply, and distribution changes due to the impact of COVID-19, reach out to our experts:

Our team can also provide process authority services in case you need to change processes and/or formulations due to COVID-19 related challenges. For more information visit the Cornell Food Venture Center and for dairy-related process authority services contact Rob Ralyea (rdr10@cornell.edu).