Over the last several days, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated its recommendations for food manufacturers and food retailers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  While FDA continues to underscore that there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19, FDA as updated its recommendations based upon updated guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Social Distancing

FDA recommends that employees in processing facilities and retail food establishments employ social distancing and maintain approximately 6 feet from others, when possible.  However, FDA recognizes that this may not be possible at all establishments.  When it is impractical for employees in to maintain social distancing, FDA recommends that effective hygiene practices be maintained to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.  However, FDA notes that solely maintaining social distancing without effective hygiene practices may not prevent the spread of this virus. FDA recommends that food facilities be vigilant in their hygiene practices, including frequent and proper hand-washing and routine cleaning of all surfaces.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The CDC has recommended the use of cloth face coverings when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.  FDA recommends that workers on farms, in food production, processing, and retail settings who do not wear facemasks as part of their jobs, consider the following:

  • Maintain face covering in accordance with the FDA Model Food Code sections applicable to clean linens;
  • Clean reusable face coverings before each daily use; and
  • Follow CDC guidance on the use of face coverings, washing instructions, and how to make homemade face covers.

FDA also notes that the cloth face coverings recommended by the CDC are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as those are critical medical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

Further, FDA has not changed its recommendations for the use of handwashing and gloves for use in food service and retail food stores.  Those entities are directed to follow the Food Code and avoid direct contact with ready-to-eat foods and food contact surfaces except within the limited exceptions outlined in the Food Code.

We will continue to monitor as FDA updates its recommendations to food processors and retailers during the COVID-19 outbreak.  Husch Blackwell’s FDA attorneys are available to discuss these developments and identify steps your company can take to appropriately comply. Contact Seth Mailhot, Emily Lyons or your Husch Blackwell attorney for more information.

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Photo of Seth Mailhot Seth Mailhot

With an education in chemical engineering and a prior career at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Seth brings clients rare regulatory insight on food, medical device and drug matters. As Leader of the firm’s FDA group, Seth handles a broad array…

With an education in chemical engineering and a prior career at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Seth brings clients rare regulatory insight on food, medical device and drug matters. As Leader of the firm’s FDA group, Seth handles a broad array of matters involving FDA-regulated products and services including food, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, tobacco, radiation-emitting electronic products and cosmetics.

Photo of Emily Lyons Emily Lyons

Emily grew up on a northern Illinois dairy farm, and now helps clients bridge the gap from farm to fork. She guides clients on complex regulatory issues as they bring dairy products, beverages, fruits and vegetables, processed foods and other agricultural goods to…

Emily grew up on a northern Illinois dairy farm, and now helps clients bridge the gap from farm to fork. She guides clients on complex regulatory issues as they bring dairy products, beverages, fruits and vegetables, processed foods and other agricultural goods to market. At the intersection of agriculture, food and environment, Emily handles compliance matters such as labeling, marketing, permitting and agency inquiries including the Food Safety Modernization Act, Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, USDA National Organic Program and bioengineered food disclosure standard, Generally Recognized as Safe status for food additives and food contact substances, and the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65).