The following are resources available to industry members and consumers on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and food safety. For additional information, visit FDA's Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) main page.
Questions & Answers for Industry
Food Supply Chain
If you are experiencing issues regarding your supply chain, delivery of goods, or business continuity, please contact the FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center at NBEOC@max.gov.
Food facilities, like other work establishments, need to follow protocols set by local and state health departments, which may vary depending on the amount of community spread of COVID-19 in a particular area. We encourage coordination with local health officials for all businesses so that timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each location where they have operations. Also see the CDC's What Grocery and Food Retail Workers Need to Know about COVID-19.
In some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low before stores can restock. Based on our ongoing communication with industry, we understand this is largely an issue of unprecedented demand from the retail sector – not a lack of capacity to produce, process and deliver.
Food production and manufacturing are widely dispersed throughout the United States, however; there is a significant shift in where consumers are buying food, because of the pandemic. While food use in large-scale establishments, such as hotels, restaurants, sports arenas/stadiums and universities suddenly declined, the demand for food at grocery stores increased. FDA has issued temporary guidance to provide flexibility in packaging and labeling requirements to support food supply chains and get foods to the consumer retail marketplace.
Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory, not gastrointestinal, illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.
With respect to foodborne pathogens, CDC, FDA, and FSIS continue to work with state and local partners to investigate foodborne illness and outbreaks. FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network manages outbreak response, as well as surveillance and post-response activities related to incidents involving multiple illnesses linked to FDA-regulated human food products, including dietary supplements, and cosmetic products. During this coronavirus outbreak, CORE’s full-time staff will continue to operate to prepare for, coordinate and carry out response activities to incidents of foodborne illness.
FDA’s Center for Veterinary medicine manages outbreak response for animal food and is similarly staffed and prepared to respond to incidents of foodborne illness in animals.
Social Distancing, Disinfecting & Other Precautions
FDA is sharing information about best practices to operate retail food stores, restaurants, and associated pick-up and delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic to safeguard workers and consumers. The information in two convenient formats addresses key considerations for how foods offered at retail and restaurants can be safely handled and delivered to the public, as well as key best practices for employee health, cleaning and sanitizing, and personal protective equipment (PPE). See Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Also see the CDC's What Grocery and Food Retail Workers Need to Know about COVID-19.
To prevent spread of COVID-19, CDC is recommending individuals employ social distancing or maintaining approximately 6 feet from others, when possible. In food production/processing facilities and retail food establishments, an evaluation should be made to identify and implement operational changes that increase employee separation. However, social distancing to the full 6 feet will not be possible in some food facilities.
The risk of an employee transmitting COVID-19 to another is dependent on distance between employees, the duration of the exposure, and the effectiveness of employee hygiene practices and sanitation. When it’s impractical for employees in these settings to maintain social distancing, effective hygiene practices should be maintained to reduce the chance of spreading the virus. Also, see Should Employees in retail food and food production settings wear face coverings to prevent exposure to COVID-19? (Posted April 4, 2020).
IMPORTANT: Maintaining social distancing in the absence of effective hygiene practices may not prevent the spread of this virus. Food facilities should be vigilant in their hygiene practices, including frequent and proper hand-washing and routine cleaning of all surfaces.
Because the intensity of the COVID-19 outbreak may differ according to geographic location, coordination with state and local officials is strongly encouraged for all businesses so that timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each location where their operations reside.
Sick employees should follow the CDC’s What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
On April 3, the CDC released an updated recommendation regarding the use of cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19. CDC recommends the use of simple cloth face coverings as a voluntary public health measure in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).
For workers on farms, and in food production, processing, and retail settings who do not typically wear masks as part of their jobs, consider the following if you choose to use a cloth face covering to slow the spread of COVID-19:
- Maintain face coverings in accordance with parameters in FDA’s Model Food Code sections 4-801.11 Clean Linens and 4.802.11 Specifications.
- Launder reusable face coverings before each daily use.
- CDC also has additional information on the use of face coverings, including washing instructions and information on how to make homemade face covers.
NOTE: The cloth face coverings recommended by CDC are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
FDA’s Food Code recommendations for hand washing and glove use in food service and retail food stores have not changed as a result of the pandemic. (Food Code 2017 Section 2-301.11). Per the FDA Food Code: with limited exceptions, employees may not contact exposed, ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands and shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single use-gloves, or dispensing equipment (Food Code 2017 Section 3-301.11). Gloves are not a substitute for hand washing or hand hygiene.
If your task requires direct contact with ready-to-eat food, wash your hands and the exposed portions of your arms for 20 seconds prior to donning gloves and before touching food or food-contact surfaces. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.
We are aware of temporary out-of-stock conditions of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Several manufacturers of these products have indicated that they are working to replenish supplies. In addition, the FDA has issued guidance for the temporary compounding of certain alcohol-based hand sanitizers by pharmacists in state-licensed pharmacies or federal facilities and registered outsourcing facilities. See Immediately in Effect Guidance for Industry: Policy for Temporary Compounding of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency. FDA has also issued guidance for the temporary preparation of certain alcohol-based hand sanitizer products by firms during the public health emergency (COVID-19). See Guidance for Industry: Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-191).
Hand sanitizers are not intended to replace handwashing in food production and retail settings. Instead, hand sanitizers may be used in addition to or in combination with proper handwashing. CDC recommends that everyone wash their hands with plain soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may be used if plain soap and water are not available.
As an interim measure, we understand some food establishments have set up quaternary ammonium hand-dip stations and sprays at 200 ppm concentration. These products are intended for use on surfaces, and as such, may not be formulated for use on skin. FDA is aware of adverse event reports from consumers using such products as a replacement for hand sanitizers and advises against using these products as replacements for hand sanitizers.
Yes, in a guidance issued by Department of Homeland Security on March 19 Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19, workers in the Food and Agriculture sector – agricultural production, food processing, distribution, retail and food service and allied industries – are named as essential critical infrastructure workers. Promoting the ability of our workers within the food and agriculture industry to continue to work during periods of community restrictions, social distances, and closure orders, among others, is crucial to community continuity and community resilience.
FDA-regulated food manufacturers are required to follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) and many have food safety plans that include a hazards analysis and risk-based preventive controls. CGMPs and food safety plans have requirements for maintaining clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. See: FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food.
- Food facilities are required to use EPA-registered “sanitizer” products in their cleaning and sanitizing practices.
- In addition, there is a list of EPA-registered “disinfectant” products for COVID-19 on the Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 list that have qualified under EPA’s emerging viral pathogen program for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
- IMPORTANT: Check the product label guidelines for if and where these disinfectant products are safe and recommended for use in food manufacturing areas or food establishments.
- We encourage coordination with local health officials for all businesses so that timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each location where their operations reside.
- Food facilities may want to consider a more frequent cleaning schedule.
Restaurants and retail food establishments are regulated at the state and local level. State, local, and tribal regulators use the Food Code published by the FDA to develop or update their own food safety rules. Again, there is no current evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The coronavirus is mostly spread from one person to another through respiratory droplets. However, it’s always critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to prevent foodborne illness.
As an extra precaution to help avoid the transmission of COVID-19 through surface contact, we recommend frequent washing and sanitizing of all food contact surfaces and utensils. Food-service workers also must practice frequent hand washing and glove changes before and after preparing food. Include frequent cleaning and sanitizing of counters and condiment containers. Consumers should wash their hands after using serving utensils.
In communities with sustained transmission of COVID-19, state and local health authorities have implemented social-distancing measures which discourage or prohibit dining in congregate settings. We also recommend discontinuing self-service buffets and salad bars until these measures are lifted.
Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.
We do not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market because of COVID-19, as there is currently no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.
Additionally, facilities are required to control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill regardless of the type of virus or bacteria. For example, facilities are required to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces.
The Temporary Policy Regarding Enforcement of 21 CFR Part 118 (the Egg Safety Rule) During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency provides producers of shell eggs that normally would be sent to facilities for further processing, the flexibility to sell their eggs for distribution to retail locations, such as supermarkets, when certain conditions are present. This flexibility will help egg producers meet increased demand for shell eggs by consumers at retail locations while still ensuring the safety of eggs.
See the Constituent Update (FDA Provides Temporary Flexibility Regarding the Egg Safety Rule During COVID-19 Pandemic While Still Ensuring the Safety of Eggs) for more information.
FDA issued this guidance to provide temporary flexibility regarding certain packaging and labeling requirements for shell eggs sold in retail food establishments so that industry can meet the increased demand for shell eggs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
See the Constituent Update (FDA Provides Temporary Flexibility Regarding Packaging and Labeling of Shell Eggs Sold to Consumers by Retail Food Establishments During COVID-19 Pandemic) for more information.
In this temporary guidance for receiving facilities and FSVP importers, the FDA made clear its intent in certain circumstances related to impact of the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), not to enforce requirements in three foods regulations to conduct onsite audits of food suppliers if other supplier verification methods are used instead. The three regulations are:
- Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food (21 CFR part 117)
- Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals (21 CFR part 507)
- Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals (21 CFR part 1 subpart L)
See the Constituent Update (FDA Issues Temporary COVID-19 Policy for Receiving Facilities and FSVP Importers in Meeting FSMA Supplier Verification Onsite Audit Requirements) for more information.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants and food manufacturers may have food not labeled for retail sale that they wish to sell at retail. The FDA has released a guidance document to provide restaurants and other businesses with flexibility regarding nutrition labeling so that they can sell certain packaged food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Workers Testing Positive
To ensure continuity of operations, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, informed by the risk assessment of the workplace that accounts for COVID-19 mitigations already in place, provided they remain symptom-free and additional precautions are taken to protect them and the community.
Sick workers should stay home or go home if they develop symptoms during the work day.
For workers potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19, employers should
- Check temperatures and assess symptoms of workers, ideally before entering the facility or operation.
- If no fever (>100.4 F) or COVID-19 symptoms are present, workers should self-monitor for onset of symptoms during their shift.
As a general good practice for all workers, employers should
- Encourage workers to use an employer-approved face mask or cloth face covering at all times while in the workplace.
- Ensure that workers can practice social distancing or employ engineering solutions if that is not possible.
- Make available facilities and materials for worker hygiene so workers can practice CDC recommended handwashing.
- Clean and disinfect workplaces/stations at frequent intervals.
For additional information, including Federal government resources and guidance, see What to Do If You Have a COVID-19 Confirmed Positive Worker or Workers Who Have Been Exposed to a Confirmed Case of COVID-19.
Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.
Facilities are required to use personnel practices that protect against contamination of food, food contact surfaces and packaging and to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. Although it is possible that the infected worker may have touched surfaces in your facility, FDA-regulated food manufacturers are required to follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs). Maintaining CGMPs in the facility should minimize the potential for surface contamination and eliminate contamination when it occurs. With the detection of the coronavirus in asymptomatic people and studies showing survival of coronavirus on surfaces for short periods of time, as an extra precaution, food facilities may want to consider a more frequent cleaning and sanitation schedule for high human contact surfaces.
Food facilities need to follow protocols set by local and state health departments, which may vary depending on the amount of community spread of COVID-19 in a given area. These decisions will be based on public health risk of person-to-person transmission – not based on food safety.
U.S. exporters of FDA-regulated food products are responsible for following U.S. laws and regulations and following the requirements of the countries to which they export. Recently, some countries have begun to request commitments to provide information that food is free of the COVID-19 virus and/or has been produced under conditions that prevent contamination by the COVID-19 virus. At this time, there is no evidence of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, a respiratory virus, through food or food packaging, and the FDA does not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market because of COVID-19. FDA food safety requirements are robust and ensure that food produced for both domestic consumption and export is safe. The FDA is also communicating its understanding of the science related to COVID-19 transmission and food safety to foreign governments.
U.S. food exporters need to carefully consider and distinguish official food safety requirements of the importing countries and those conditions being requested in the context of a business-to-business relationship. Differentiating this will assist exporters in understanding their business options. Exporters are welcome to use existing FDA communications posted on its website to assist with their interactions with countries to which they export, if helpful.