I was sitting in front of the television, trying to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the entire world, and yet another breaking news flashes on the screen: “The Ohio government has declared a stay-at-home order” and “California has declared a complete lockdown.” Amidst all this chaos, my entire body stiffened, and many thoughts flooded my mind. But most importantly, if the government is shutting everything down, how will people get their groceries?

Somewhere in my scrambled mind, a voice told me to check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for more details. There I came across CDC’s detailed description on the situation:

 “Certain suppliers/businesses are considered essential, including Food Manufacturers and their suppliers.”

I sighed in relief!

But wait, what does that mean? Aren’t we (food manufacturers) susceptible to COVID-19 or other viruses? Don’t we have families to go back to? Our business is considered essential, but are we (employees) not susceptible to the virus?

After some thought, I realized the same was expected from doctors, nurses, and health professionals.  To help those in need to the best of our ability in these difficult times. As a food manufacturer, we play an essential role in feeding the world. Right from the farmer at the grass-root level to the employees at a large-scale grocery store, everyone has an equal contribution to the food supply, even during this pandemic.

Let me give you an insight into how this COVID-19 pandemic is not harming employees working for food manufacturers. Being a Food Safety and Quality Manager, let me tell you, from my perspective, what precautions are being implemented by me to ensure the employees working in the plant are safe while producing high-quality food.

As prescribed on the CDC Website, handwashing, social distancing, and staying home are the essential steps towards the prevention of the spread of this virus. Other preventative measures are covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing.

Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, food manufacturers have to follow ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’ or GMPs as we call it in the world of food manufacturing. GMPs dictate that every time an employee enters a production facility, they MUST wash their hands. Employees MUST wear Personal protective Equipment (PPE) to mitigate any cross-contamination (physical or biological). PPE includes hairnets, beard nets, and a lab coat or an apron. If an employee is sick, he/she is not allowed to enter the production facility or is advised not to come to work. Considering different allergens (peanut, dairy, eggs, etc.), claims (kosher, halal, vegan, non-GMO, etc.), manufacturers HAVE TO clean and sanitize the production line regularly (a pandemic is not required to follow this rule). In short, the steps prescribed by the CDC to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus are not any different from what GPMs are followed by food manufacturers daily.

Source: www.haradacorp.co.jp

Now, the question that arises is: Do food manufacturers follow these steps? Yes! FDA and third-party certification bodies annually audit all food manufacturers. There is a lot of documentation and policies that serve as proof during this audit.

Considering all these GMPs, food manufacturers were already taking precautionary measures before the government imposed these measures to prevent the spread of this outbreak. This doesn’t mean the pandemic doesn’t affect us. It has impacted us in many ways, but more on that in the upcoming article.

After considering all these points, let me just say on behalf of the food manufacturing industry, #We_Got_You_America #We_Got_You_World!

Links:

  1. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/food-safety-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html

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