The Covid-19 situation shifts daily, and we wanted to make sure you had information that is relevant to Science & Technology community. Below you will see information from a recent FDA briefing, a call from the USDA to help get fresh fruits and vegetables to school age students, and a townhall meeting to help answer Covid-19 questions. As always if you would like to add others in your organization to our contact list, please let Cyndi Neal know.
FDA Briefing Update
FDA held a Food Safety and Supply briefing that involved many high-ranking officials, including Deputy Commissioner, Frank Yiannas. During the briefing, FDA outlined that there is no food shortages and our food supply remains safe. There is currently no evidence of food and packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19, and FDA does not anticipate that food products will be recalled from the market if a manufacturing employee is confirmed positive for the virus. FDA has also posted a new set of FAQs just to: www.fda.gov/food
FDA has postponed inspections of most non-U.S. food facilities through April. This week FDA further announced that they are augmenting this prior announcement to include the postponement of all U.S. routine surveillance facility inspections. During this interim period, FDA is evaluating ways to conduct inspection work that would not jeopardize public safety or the well-being of those involved in the inspections. Inspections are just one part of the approach to maintaining a safe food supply. Produce safety should still be top of mind, and FSMA, GMPs, and GAPs should still be followed. A prudent step would be to re-emphasize your current personal hygiene and handwashing training and monitoring. The FDA remains committed to using all available tools to oversee the safety and quality of FDA-regulated products for American patients and consumers.
Personal Hygiene – Hand Sanitizer and Gloves
If you are running short on supply for hand sanitizer, the FDA has provided guidance on production of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help boost supply. The FDA’s guidance documents apply only to handrub products prepared using the United States Pharmacopoeia or Food Chemical Codex grade ingredients specifically described in the guidance, consistent with World Health Organization recommendations.
Additionally, the question of the value of introducing or re-introducing iodine-based glove dips as an added SOP to personal hygiene and glove-use policies and training reinforcement moments has come up. This is an individual business decision and not without the need for some thoughtful evaluation. This was a common packing house activity in the earliest days of GAPs evolution, but is far less common in recent years. There is long-standing and sound information from the CDC to medical facilities about the positive efficacy of various qualified glove dip solutions including iodine formulations. At this time, there were many studies conducted on human viruses and may be an extra practice to consider. We will be pulling together resources in the near future to provide science-based information as it relates to viral disinfection, though not specific to COVID 19.
PMA Covid-19 Produce Virtual Town Hall
PMA is hosting a members-only Virtual Town Hall scheduled for March 25 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time with a COVID-19 expert and breakout sessions focused on food safety, grower-shippers, global trade, supply chain, foodservice, retail, and floral.
USDA Food Box – Partners Needed
As the coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to impact the world, the USDA announced that they are working with private partners to deliver food boxes, which will include servings of fruits and vegetables, to rural students. The food boxes delivered must all conform to Summer Food Service Program meal patterns. The USDA rural collaborative will utilize the exact same federal financing as the Summer Food Service Program Distribution and begin the week of March 24. Since initial capacity is limited, USDA is seeking additional vendors to expand capacity and outreach to more rural children as additional schools close. USDA will prioritize students who do not currently have access to an approved meal distribution site under the Summer Food Service Program and live in an area with an active outbreak of the coronavirus. USDA has created a single contact for those who have suggestions, ideas, or want to help feed kids across the country. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
USDA APHIS Services Continue
The USDA will continue its regular services despite the challenges of COVID-19. These services, so important to the global produce industry, include: certifying exports, issuing import permits, inspecting imported plant shipments, helping to clear cargo held at foreign ports, responding to pest outbreaks, carrying out domestic pest programs, and opening new export markets. These services are provided through USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine. For more, contact your state PPQ office. You can find contact information here: Plant Protection and Quarantine Contacts. The produce industry is critical to growing a healthier world – more important now than ever.
Resources on Perishable Produce and Floral Storage and Transportation Compatibility
During this period when long term and short-term storage practices may be impacted or transportation and LTL mixed load combinations are being impacted, compatibility for visual, sensory, and nutritional quality retention is important. A good resource for information can be found at the UC Postharvest Technology Center website Storage Recommendations page. On this page there is also a downloadable poster for home storage recommendations to maximize quality-life.
Small Business Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
The US Small Business Administration will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. Once a declaration is made for designated areas within a state, the information on the application process for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance will be made available to all affected communities as well as updated on website: SBA Disaster Assistance.
USDA allocates approximately $72.4 million to States for Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funds projects to support and enhance competitiveness of specialty crop food sector. Federal funds will be allocated to U.S. states, not individuals.
Interested parties should contact state contacts. State departments of agriculture should consult with specialty crop growers, processors, and/or distributors before developing SCBGP project applications to ensure maximum public input and benefit. Note that ornamental hort commodities are considered specialty crops. State applications are due May 27.
All the best,
Dr. Max Teplitski
Chief Science Officer
Produce Marketing Association
PO Box 6036, Newark, DE 19714
direct: +1 (302) 607-2194 | fax: +1 (302) 731-2409