Partners Michael Annis and Ryann Glenn of Husch Blackwell’s Food & Agribusiness industry team were recently featured over at Meat + Poultry discussing the broad effects of COVID-19 on the meat processing industry, including the potential impact of the Safe to Work Act currently being considered in the U.S. Congress.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a checklist to assist human and animal food operations during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The checklist is useful for persons growing, harvesting, packing, manufacturing, processing or holding human and animal food regulated by FDA when assessing or restarting operations during the pandemic.
The first section of the checklist focuses on employee health and social distancing, which includes considerations for employee wellbeing, employee screening, and operation configuration for social distancing to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19. The second section of the checklist focuses on food safety, which includes considerations when restarting operations after a shutdown, and reassessing operations to make changes due to COVID-19 such as changes to personnel, suppliers, and incoming ingredients, on food safety or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan, as well as current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs).
The guidance document incorporates many of the other resources already developed by FDA, OSHA, and the Center for Disease Control for food and agricultural operations to consider during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- USDA and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Agriculture Workers and Employers Interim Guidance
- Meat and Poultry Processing Workers and Employer Interim Guidance
- Protecting Seafood Processing Workers from COVID-19 Interim Guidance
- Reporting a Temporary Closure or Significantly Reduced Production by a Human Food Establishment and Requesting FDA Assistance During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
- FDA Issues Re-opening Best Practices Checklist and Infographic for Retail Food Establishments that Closed or Partially Closed Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
It is important to note that the checklist is not an OSHA standard that establishes a basis for a fine or liability under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. However, OSHA and states operating under OSHA-recognized state plans have cited employers in the food sector under the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to maintain workplaces free of recognized hazards. The checklist is a useful resource for food operations to ensure its COVID-19 policies and procedures meet these obligations.
We will continue to monitor developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the food and agricultural sector. Should you have any questions regarding this alert, contact your Husch Blackwell attorney Avi Meyerstein, Seth Mailhot, or Emily Lyons.
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