COVID-19 update: FDA and USDA issue guidance for industry and inspectors

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has continued to escalate, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken additional action to provide industry, the public, and inspectors with guidance concerning food safety and how to respond in the event that food industry personnel test positive for COVID-19. Importantly, FDA does not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market when a food employee tests positive for COVID-19 because there is currently no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging. Similarly, USDA says that it is not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.

This blog summarizes key takeaways in the following agency documents and communications:

  • FDA’s website on Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19);
  • FDA’s temporary policy on onsite audits under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations;
  • USDA’s COVID-19 Questions & Answers (Q&As);
  • USDA communications concerning Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) inspectional issues.

While this blog is focused on the guidance from federal agencies, state and local jurisdictions also are starting to issue their own guidance documents, and there are existing reporting requirements in some jurisdictions. Food companies will need to take account of federal, state, and local requirements and guidance when addressing this quickly evolving situation.

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