COVID-19 Resources for Small Food Businesses
We are very concerned about the impact this pandemic may have on you, your community and your business continuity. As an essential business, we are working to ensure that you can locate research-based food manufacturing and business resources to help you through this difficult time.
Is Coronavirus a Food Safety Issue? Novel Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. CDC and USDA are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted through the consumption of food. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices and double efforts to clean, sanitize and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and shared equipment/tools.
For products that have a thermal kill-step (require cooking as part of the manufacturing process, such as BBQ sauce), be diligent in following the SOP(s) and completing the cooking logs required in the manufacturing process for these products. Because little is known about SARS-CoV-2 virus viability on surfaces and in colder environments, there are some concerns for products that do not have a thermal kill-step (are not cooked, such as dips and cookie dough that is refrigerated).
Consider expanding your company policies to include a return to work policy and developing a Standard Operating Procedure for when an employee becomes ill. Review and update your company Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure for using proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. An example of strategies your company can implement can be found on this checklist developed by the Institute of Food Safety at Cornell University.
Maintain adequate documentation of operations and continue following your company’s policies. USDA and FDA are maintaining flexibility during this time however, written records are the only documentation that provides proof of regulatory compliance. If procedures, actions and corrections are not written down, it didn’t happen.
The virus can survive on a surface for 2-3 days, though even the surface type can affect this time of survival. It is important to follow good hygiene practices and double efforts to clean and sanitize frequently touched surfaces. Monitor the daily guidance released from the Arkansas Department of Health and CDC. Continue to follow your company's’ Good Manufacturing Practices and the FDA Food Code to ensure food safety and reduce the potential spread of respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19:
- Workers who come into contact with food products and its ingredients must keep hands & arms clean and adhere to cleaning procedures and good manufacturing practices when handling food products.
- Proper hand washing includes washing hands & arms at least 20 seconds with soap and rinsing under warm running water. https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/pdf/Handwashing.pdf
- When to wash includes: after touching body parts; after using the restroom; after coughing, sneezing, or using tissue; after using tobacco; after eating or drinking; after handling soiled equipment during food manufacturing; after handling raw food (such as eggs) and working with ready to eat food; before donning gloves; and after any other activity that contaminates hands.
- Remind workers to avoid touching their face.
- Ensure PPE (such as single use gloves, masks, gowns), cleaning supplies, handwashing supplies and operational handwashing facilities are available to workers.
Managing a business through this pandemic will require navigation and preparedness planning. Reach out to the U.S. Small Business Administration office or your regional Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) office for company guidance and federal assistance through this event. If your company is suffering economic injury due to COVID-19, these organizations can help you prepare an application for a disaster loan.
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission has a listing of federal and state resources to help employers and businesses combat the effects of COVID-19. The agency is also offering Community Development Block Grants and a Quick Action Loan program to offer eligible companies a loan or loan guaranty of up to $250,000.
Also, beware of fraudsters and scammers attempting to take advantage of the uncertainty created by COVID-19. Be absolutely sure you know who you are conducting business with before proceeding to provide any financial or proprietary information.
Steps to take if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19:
- Inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality.
- Consult with the local health department for additional guidance.
- To control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill, re-double cleaning and sanitizing in the workplace.
- Food facilities are required to use EPA-registered “sanitizer” products in their cleaning and sanitizing practices. There is a list of EPA-registered “disinfectant” products for COVID-19 available here.
- 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.
- COVID-19 Webinar Update for Food Operations Stakeholders from FDA, CDC and OSHA
- Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist from FDA, CDC and OSHA
- Guidance for Employers from Arkansas Department of Health
- Food Safety and Coronavirus Disease 2019 from FDA
- Resources for Businesses and Employers from CDC
- Factsheets for Employees in English and Spanish from CDC
- Downloadable pictogram posters on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces specific to COVID-19 from the American Chemistry Council’s Chlorine Chemistry Division
- COVID-19 or Other Public Health Emergencies and the Fair Labor Standards Act Q&A from US Department of Labor
- General Questions and Employee Health from the University of Florida IFAS Extension
- COVID-19 Tipsheet for Food Handlers in English and Spanish from the ServSafe program of the National Restaurant Association
- Retail Packaging and COVID-19 from North Carolina State University Extension Service
- Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) from the US Small Business Administration
ASBTDC State Office
Phone: 501.683.7700 or toll-free: 800.862.2040
Arkansas Economic Development Commission
Phone: 501-682-1121 or toll-free: 1-800-ARKANSAS
U.S. SBA Little Rock District Office