The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced March 18 that it is postponing temporarily all routine inspections of food and feed facilities for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting inspection activities to “mission critical” cases.
David Fairfield, senior vice president of feed at the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), explained some of the changes the FDA is making as a result of the pandemic during a webinar April 2 sponsored by the association and Grain Journal magazine.
According to Fairfield, the FDA made this decision in order to protect its workers and the workers at the businesses being inspected.
FDA will work with public health authorities to determine what inspections would be “mission critical.” But even in these cases, FDA temporarily will relax its rule of arriving for inspections unannounced and instead call ahead.
Individual inspectors have the discretion on what to do about businesses that have implemented “no visitor” policies.
State governments that perform inspections on behalf of the FDA are bound by these temporary rules, as well, Fairfield said. However, they may be able to conduct inspections under state regulations..
In another area, FDA announced it would suspend temporarily all domestic and foreign supplier audit inspections under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
In some countries, these inspections may not even be possible depending on the terms of national lockdown restrictions.
When Infection Strikes
Fairfield said that for now, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by human food or animal feed or their packaging.
However, he offered these suggestions in case an employee shows symptoms of or tests positive for the virus: