We are living in unprecedented times that require care and precision to keep the civilian population safe. It is understandable that as an essential food industry worker, you may be concerned about the safety of your team and food inventory.
First off, we want to deliver good news. At this time, there is no evidence that food or food packaging is associated with the transmission of coronavirus. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses such as norovirus that may be transferred through contaminated foodstuffs, coronavirus is a respiratory illness that is primarily transferred from person to person. So, we do not expect any recalls of products due to this outbreak even if someone handling products is confirmed as infected.
The largest consideration to ensure a reliable supply chain during this pandemic is to protect your team’s exposure. Still, there may even be new opportunities for your business at this time. Keep reading for suggestions and strategies to safeguard your consumables supply chain.
Maximize Social Distancing
Encourage travel reduction and social distancing in the professional and personal lives of your employees. Consider strategic staffing models by staggering shifts and breaks and moving all possible workers to work from home status to decrease interaction that may lead to exposure.
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform workers of their possible exposure while maintaining their confidentiality and then consult with their local health department for additional guidance.
Protect Workers’ Health
Provide masks to workers to control disease spread. Though medical-grade masks are the best to prevent yourself from contracting coronavirus, these may be hard to come by. However, reusable cloth masks boiled and dried completely between uses help prevent unwittingly infected workers from spreading the disease.
Another critical component to a strong workforce is providing high-quality healthcare coverage for workers, including temporarily furloughed employees. As employers, it is the one thing we can do to make certain our workers can safely seek treatment if infected, make a full recovery, and remain a strong member of the team. This will become especially important if cases among your team spike and furloughed employees will need to be reinstated fully to maintain supply chain volumes.
Postpone Unnecessary Visits
The reality of ensuring the safety of your workers and the supply chain is decreasing contact in all forms, including visiting your inventory, inspections, and nonessential meetings. The FDA has postponed routine inspections and onsite audits during this time to both protect workers and reduce the disruption of supply chains, and this should be echoed throughout any business to increase efficacy. Though there are occasions when these interactions will still be necessary, these reductions will significantly decrease liability.
Diligent enforcement of standard food safety regulations can go a long way to help the spread of coronavirus, so your team should already be well prepared for this increased risk. Continue to practice frequent hand washing and glove changes before and after handling foodstuffs, and use anti-microbial cleaners on any surfaces that team members come into contact with.
Adjust Fulfillment Strategy
Consumer patterns are moving away from restaurants but increasing in grocery stores, which is leading to emptier shelves. If possible, taking advantage of this and redirecting your supply chain toward grocers could help protect your business from losses. In the case of food manufacturers already poised to sell to grocers, this could actually be an opportunity for increased profitability due to such high demand.
Addressing this crisis is a team effort, and it will require collaboration between colleagues at all levels. MWCold is committed to the safety of the American population and facing any challenges to food safety during this unprecedented time. Know that you can always reach high-level decision-makers 24 hours a day with any concerns you may have as this situation continues to develop. Thank you to food supply workers from the fields to the drivers to the grocery stores, and stay safe.
“Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while until this wrath has passed you by.”
– Isaiah 26:20