March 31, 2020

PMA issues COVID-19 updates, planning webinar April 1

Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Chief Science Officer Max Teplitski issued the following COVID-19 update on March 30:

“Below please find information on Root Cause Analysis, SARS-CoV-2 disinfectants, and an interview with FSMA expert Tania Martinez, who discusses the implications of the FDA decision to postpone certain inspections. Additionally, continue to check for up to date information on the COVID-19 situation in relation to the produce and floral industry. As always if you would like to add others in your organization to our contact list, please let Cyndi Neal know.

I want to thank all of you who joined us for the Virtual Town Hall this past Wednesday. We received substantive feedback and a lot of follow-up questions from attendees. Based on this feedback, PMA has announced that we will hold another Virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, April 1. You will receive an invitation from PMA to register for this event and to submit your questions.

Max Teplitski, PMA Chief Science Officer

I plan to share a Q&A interview that I recorded with Professor Don Schaffner from Rutgers University, in which I ask him about the feasibility of transfer of COVID-19 from packaging (yes, we discuss transfer coefficient), he helps me understand the data on persistence of COVID-19 that floats through the mass media, and he gives us practical advice on how to minimize the risk of person-to-person transmission during field operations and in a food facility. We talk about the efficacy of quats, and I finally learned how to wash hands from Professor Schaffner.

If you missed our first townhall, a video recording of my conversation with two virologists from Emory University who explain what the recent COVID persistence data mean to the industry can be found here. The video is close captioned in English, Spanish and Portuguese. To access Spanish and Portuguese versions, please click on the CC button in the lower right corner of the video window and select your language.

Are you confused by all the regulatory COVID documents coming out from the federal agencies? 

PMA has developed a digest of recent regulatory guidances from WHO, FDA, CDC, EPA, OSHA and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Can you compel health checks? Do you close your facility if an employee tests positive for COVID-19? What are the best practices for preventing COVID-19 spread in a food facility?  These questions are addressed in a downloadable digest, which can be accessed on As the situation evolves, this digest will be updated.

Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 – Flyers for Field Workers and Food Facilities

PMA has developed two flyers, one for field workers and one for food facilities, in English and Spanish. These flyers outline best practices to share with employees and are based on the federal guidelines summarized in the digest. You can download these documents on the Grower/Shipper Covid-19 Resource page.

Interview with the Experts: FDA Temporary Guidance on FSVP Onsite Audit Requirements 

FDA has postponed inspections on March 26 and announced a final guidance for industry entitled “Temporary Policy Regarding Preventive Controls and FSVP Food Supplier Verification Onsite Audit Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” Join me as I discuss what that means to the export/import community and to produce safety in the U.S. with Dr. Tania Martinez, Vice President of Demos Global Group. During this interview, Dr. Martinez covers what the postponement of inspections really means, explains PREDICT screening, and offers thoughts on ensuring compliance. You can view the full interview here. Videos are available in English and Spanish.

Root Cause Analysis Core Elements and Guidance Released

The Pew Charitable Trusts Safe Food Project (PEW) recently published an open-access Guide for Conducting a Food Safety Root Cause Analysis (RCA). This RCA guidance details the approaches, planning tools, and team development prerequisites for investigating contamination incidents and preventing their recurrence. The recommendations and examples are drawn from systems research and practical lessons in diverse industries, as well as in-depth discussions among key stakeholders experienced in food safety. The guide provides best practices for effective RCA which, if used routinely in an adequately standardized manner, would help resolve root causes and contributing factors following food safety failures. Systematically applied, RCA will ultimately build a body of shared Lessons Learned and significantly reduce foodborne illness. PEW also provides a Q&A on RCA with Frank Yiannis, FDA Deputy Commissioner for food policy and response.

Foodservice: FDA Provides Temporary Flexibility Regarding Nutrition Labeling for Resale to Retail

The FDA is issuing a temporary guidance to provide restaurants and food manufacturers with flexibility regarding nutrition labeling so that they can sell certain packaged foods during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, restaurants may have purchased ingredients that they can no longer use to prepare restaurant food and instead wish to sell to their customers. This guidance does not apply to foods prepared by restaurants.

Hand Sanitizer – Temporary Guidance

FDA has recently released temporary guidance for the preparation of certain alcohol-based hand sanitizer products by firms during the public health emergency (COVID-19). It is important to note that hand sanitizers are not to replace handwashing, but to be used in addition to or in combination with proper handwashing.

EPA-approved surface disinfectants: updates

EPA continues to update the current list of 287 sanitizers considered to be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. On it are solutions containing hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite and sodium chlorite, ethanol and isopropanol, quaternary ammonium, acids (hydrochloric, hypochlorous, octanoic, peroxyacetic, citric, L-lactic and glycolic), thymol, phenolic, and silver ion.

Manufacturers of disinfectants that are not currently on the EPA list can submit their information to EPA  

At this time, the EPA will expedite claims for surface disinfectants that do not require review of new efficacy data. These claims can be submitted as non-PRIA fast-track amendments. Registrants should not include other label changes typically covered under amendments and notifications as part of the submission to add Emerging Viral Pathogen claims.

Webinar: Whole Genome Sequencing 

Join us and our friends on a webinar looking at the whole genome sequencing (WGS). This webinar will feature Dr. Eric Brown, the Director of Microbiology at FDA, where he will discuss the impact of WGS analysis toward their public health efforts, not only in outbreak investigations but also in routine monitoring and surveillance programs. Register now for this March 31 webinar.”

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