Sanitizing better than COVID testing in pet food plants

FDA officials also discussed how pet food industry facility staff should prove essential worker status during the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.

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(Willee Cole |
(Willee Cole |

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials made recommendations for pet food facilities dealing with COVID-19. Sanitizing pet food facilities may be more valuable than environmental testing, for example.

“Recently FDA received questions on the need to conduct environmental testing if a worker has tested positive in a food facility because there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19,” Jenny Murphy, deputy director for food at the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine Office of Surveillance and Compliance, said during a briefing for the pet food and animal feed industries. “We do not believe there is a need to conduct environmental testing in a food facility for the virus that causes COVID-19 for the purposes of animal food safety. Cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, such as with more frequent cleaning and sanitation schedule, is a better use of resources than testing to see if the virus is present.”

While not required under the CGMPs and the preventive control for animal food regulation, Murphy suggested that pet food facilities consider sanitizing food contact surfaces and equipment that workers may touch. She recommended that pet food plants use EPA-registered sanitizer products in their cleaning and sanitizing practices.

Dog, cat and other pet foods won’t be recalled in the United States if a worker tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Proving essential worker status of pet food industry employees

United States Department of Homeland Security officials defined certain groups as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic, including all animal food industry sectors, including pet food, renderers, ingredient manufacturers, food packaging, transportation and retail facilities such as pet food stores.

“One question that has come-up is what type of documentation workers should provide to show they are essential, critical infrastructure workers especially as more states and localities have put-in shelter-in-place orders?” Murphy said.

“That decision is a decision for an individual state but we have heard that many employers are providing their own letters of documentation to their employees and attaching the state or local government listing of essential, critical infrastructure workers. If you have questions or concerns within your state, you should work directly with your state government.

“If you are unsure of how to reach your state government, we recommend that you use the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) directory for State Feed Control Officials.”

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

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