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Coronavirus Update (as of April 3, 2020)


Concerns about the Coronavirus (Covid-19 or the virus) are growing daily. The following are links and basic information for members regarding what they may consider doing, and what they must do, to protect their employees and their operations.


Industry Best Practices


Resources for Media Relations

  • Member Release on Employee Positive for COVID-19: PDF, DOC

Food Industry Recommended Protocols: Employee Screening; Distancing; Positive Test Result

Employee Screening

Some local jurisdictions are mandating companies screen employees, e.g., taking temperatures before they enter a worksite. A temperature taking protocol has been developed and can be found here. In addition, a coalition of food industry associations created a broader document regarding legal and other considerations of screening.

Employee Distancing

Virtually all state and local directives or orders require social distancing, even in the workplace, to the extent possible. Several documents have been developed to provide guidance regarding how employers can maximize the opportunities for distancing in plants. That document can be found here. In addition, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued guidance for Canadian meat processing facilities regarding procedures CFIA expects to see if a company employee tests positive. The document, which can be found here, includes Annex that also has suggestions for measures companies can take to assist social distancing.

Employee Positive Test Result Protocol

Companies need to plan and prepare for the likely circumstance in which an employee, or visitor, shows symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive for the virus. A collection of food industry organizations, working with several federal agencies, developed protocols for food companies to follow if an employee or visitor tests positive. The objective of the protocols is avoiding or limiting business interruption at facilities that are part of a critical industry, food processing. Updated protocols can be found here. The protocols can also be found at this website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted risk assessment guidance that may be helpful in such a circumstance and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its coronavirus website to provide answers to questions, including social distancing in food facilities. In addition, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) provided updated guidance that allows companies to ask questions and take inspectors' temperatures.

NAMI also created a portal in which members are sharing actions and practices they are taking to protect employees' health regarding COVID-19, including how to maximize social distancing in plants to the extent possible, reconfiguring cafeterias and other, similar places, screening employees, among other best practices. That information can be found here. If you have practices or protocols to share please send them to me, japotts@meatinstitute.org, or Mark Dopp, mdopp@meatinstitute.org.


Personal Protective Equipment Sources

Members expressed concern on the prior conference call and in earlier correspondence regarding a shortage of important supplies, including personal protective equipment, cleaners, disinfectants, and more. Although government agencies have clarified in conversations that healthcare and emergency services are a priority regarding many supplies NAMI is working to ensure those officials are reminded the food industry must be next in line.

NAMI has been working on COVID-19 issues as part of a broader coalition. Included in that coalition is the Food Marketing Institute, which has compiled a collection of potential sources for certain types of equipment, including masks, face shields, and thermometers. Those documents can be found here, here, and here. In addition, companies are encouraged to keep sending information to foodsupplychain@usda.gov identifying specific needs companies can go to the chat box of the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Business Emergency Operations Center dashboard https://fema.connectsolutions.com/nbeoc.


Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Information

Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. A summary prepared by NAMI staff is here. In addition, the National Association of Manufacturers summarized the bill here and created and frequently asked questions document found here.


Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect on April 1, 2020 and the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) published a temporary rule that day. The FFCRA applies to a private entity or individual that employs fewer than 500 employees and requires them to pay up to 12 weeks of emergency paid sick leave or emergency paid family medical leave if one of six conditions relating to COVID-19 exist. FFCRA applies if the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; [Because the food industry is a critical infrastructure industry, food industry employees generally may travel notwithstanding shelter in residence orders or directives.]
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order as described in (1), or who has been advised as described in (2);
  5. is caring for his or her son or daughter whose school or place of care has been closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

The rule explains how employers determine who counts as an employee toward the 500-employee threshold. An employer should include full-time and part-time employees, employees on leave, temporary employees jointly employed by the employer and another employer, and day laborers supplied by a temporary placement agency. Independent contractors that provide services for an employer do not count toward the 500-employee threshold. Nor do employees count who have been laid off or furloughed and have not been reemployed. See 29 CFR 826.40. In addition, employees must be employed within the United States. The preamble provided the following example - "if an employer employs 1,000 employees in North America, but only 250 are employed in a U.S. State, the District of Columbia, or a territory or possession of the United States, that employer will be considered to have 250 employees and is thus subject to the FFCRA." WHD also posted updated versions of a Fact Sheet for Employers, a Fact Sheet for Employees, and a Questions and Answers document.


Carbon Dioxide Use and Availability

Concerns have been raised about the availability of carbon dioxide for purposes of chilling, freezing, and controlled atmosphere stunning in establishments. With a severe decline in oil prices, ethanol production as a fuel source has declined. An important byproduct of ethanol production is carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is captured and purified for the food and beverage industries, particularly in the Midwest.

In response to a request from multiple companies to explore the availability of different types of CO2, the Meat Institute gathered the following information and is trying to address the shortage, including participating in a task force led by the Compressed Gas Association. To ensure the task force has up-to-date information on CO2 availability, a survey was developed to collect information on uses of CO2 in food and beverage production companies, the impact a shortage might have on food production, and any outreach companies have conducted so far, whether to state officials or federal officials. Please complete the survey and send responses to Tiffany Lee at tlee@meatinstitute.org.


Connecting Resources

COVID-19 has created a need to explore new partners and business operations to meet and adapt to new supply chain demands. Food retailers may be facing shortages and product outages and may have strained capacity in transportation and warehousing systems as well. And many foodservice distributors and packer processors have product inventory that may prove useful to food retailers. To that end, NAMI has partnered with FMI The Food Industry Association (FMI), International Foodservice Distributors Association(IFDA), United Fresh Produce, and the National Fisheries Institute(NFI) to mix and match meat products with the retailers' demands.

Matching services can be made in:

  • Products for resale.
  • Warehousing.
  • Transportation.
  • Excess ingredients, products for meal preparation.

If you have surplus products that could be matched with inquiring retailers, please email Jim Goldberg at Jgoldberg@meatinstitute.org.


Food Safety and Inspection Service Labeling Discretion

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic, adverse effect on the foodservice sector. Conversely, demand for meat and poultry in grocery stores is at all-time highs. NAMI staff have been discussing with FSIS officials' options that allow products labeled appropriately for foodservice to be diverted to retail sale. Attached is a memorandum discussing options companies may want to consider if they wish to redirect product from foodservice to retail. On Monday, March 23, FSIS issued a special constituent update regarding this issue. FSIS issued a follow-up on March 27, which extended the agency's regulatory discretion and allows the "deviations" discussed in the March 23 alert to apply not only to products made by March 23, but also to products produced during the following 60 day temporary allowance (the window).

Through discussions between Meat Institute staff and the Labeling and Program Delivery Staff, several additional temporary allowances have been identified.

Many NAMI members also produce FDA regulated products. As with FSIS, FDA is providing temporary labeling relief regarding certain nutrition labeling requirements. Hogan Lovells summarized FDA's actions.


Critical Infrastructure Industry Issues

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House Coronavirus Task Force released a document, The President's Coronavirus Guidelines for America -- 30 Days to Slow the Spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), which states that companies in the food supply are part of a critical infrastructure industry. The Department of Homeland Security DHS) then issued this guidance and accompanying list identifying critical infrastructure industries, including agriculture and food. To support that conclusion the Meat Institute submitted a memo to DHS emphasizing the importance of including meat industry suppliers in that critical infrastructure designation

The list of states executing shelter in residence orders continues to grow. Sometimes, law enforcement officials have stopped people questioning whether they should be away from home. Previous iterations of this memo provided templates (see below) for employees to use. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued a memorandum, U.S. Department of Agriculture Operations Allowed to Operate During Shelter in Residence, you may wish to provide to your employees in addition to the templates below. Included in the Hogan Lovells document are certificate templates food and agriculture employees can use if stopped while traveling to or from work or with transportation employees, while in route. A similar document, Shipment of Supplies Related to Critical Infrastructure, was created for use by those transporting food or related products. Should your company or your carrier encounter a problem please contact Dr. Tiffany Lee, tlee@meatinstitute.org or the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Jim Mullen, at jim.mullen@dot.gov.  FMCSA has provided a questions and answers document to provide guidance. 

The broad collection of food industry associations that developed the protocols also sent a letter, to federal state and local officials asking food (for human and animal consumption), beverage, and consumer packaged goods manufacturers be exempted from the gathering and curfew bans

Finally, the National Governors Association has a coronavirus website that provides information and resources on a state by state basis. 


Antitrust Concerns

Every state has issued some form of emergency declaration and many states have instituted shelter in place orders. Although not every state has one and there is no comparable federal law, many states have enacted what are commonly known as "price gouging" statutes and those laws often are triggered by declaration or orders such as those being issued. NAMI's outside antitrust counsel has prepared a short memorandum providing background about these laws for your review. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other Government Agency Information

The CDC updates it COVID-19 links regularly. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also has information and links, COVID-19, regarding hazard recognition, the OSHA standards that apply regarding protecting workers from COVID-19, among others. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, employers can and should advise other employees of possible workplace exposure; however, infected employees must not be identified by name and medical information must be kept confidential. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has information regarding disinfectants to use regarding COVID-19. 

The Department of Homeland Security has a pandemic planning resources page. Likewise, the World Health Organization provides a Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response manual. Johns Hopkins University has a coronavirus resource center that includes a map with information regarding the outbreak. 


Labor and Employment Information Sources

Companies also should know their rights and the rights of their employees under the labor laws. Below are links to information prepared by law firms addressing issues for companies to consider regarding COVID-19. 


Archive


The Meat Institute will update these resources as needed. Please contact Mark Dopp at mdopp@meatinstitute.org with questions.