On March 18, FDA hosted a stakeholder call to discuss food safety and food supply questions related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Key points from the call, as detailed by The Acheson Group, include:
- There is no evidence of foodborne transmission of COVID-19.
- There are no shortages of food in the food supply.
- If you are in the food and agriculture sectors, you are considered critical infrastructure.
- In addition to “postponing most foreign facility inspections through April,” FDA has also “temporarily postponed all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections.” Those that are “for cause” and/or “mission-critical” will proceed. (See below for more information.)
- The majority of FDA inspections will be announced.
Listen to a recording by of the full briefing by calling toll free 866-463-4971. There is no passcode. The recording will be available until March 18, 2021 10:59 PM (CT). Or download an audio file from FDA.
FDA also is maintaining a regularly updated webpage on COVID-19 with sections on What’s New, FAQs, New Guidance, Events, and other information.
FSVP Temporary Policy Guidance. In FDA’s new guidance on its intention to temporarily not enforce supplier verification onsite audit requirements for receiving facilities and importers under FSMA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency stated that it does not intend to enforce the onsite audit requirements if other supplier verification methods are used instead.
With governments across the globe instituting travel restrictions and advisories in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 the ability of receiving facilities and FSVP importers to conduct or obtain onsite audits of their suppliers is greatly impacted. Therefore, the guidance outlines the circumstances under which FDA does not intend to enforce the requirement to conduct or obtain an onsite audit of a food supplier when the food supplier is in a country or region covered by a government travel restriction or advisory related to COVID-19.
Specifically, FDA does not intend to enforce the requirement for an onsite audit in the following circumstances:
- A receiving facility or FSVP importer has determined that an onsite audit is the appropriate verification activity for an approved supplier, as reflected by its written food safety plan or FSVP;
- The supplier that is due for an onsite audit is in a region or country covered by a government travel restriction or travel advisory related to COVID-19;
- Because of the travel restriction or travel advisory, it is temporarily impracticable for the receiving facility or FSVP importer to conduct or obtain the onsite audit of the supplier; and
- The receiving facility or FSVP importer temporarily selects an alternative verification activity or activities, such as sampling and testing food or reviewing relevant food safety records, and modifies its food safety plan or FSVP to incorporate the alternative activity or activities. The alternative verification activity or activities are designed to provide temporary assurance that the hazard requiring a supply-chain-applied control (or, for FSVP, the hazard that is being controlled by the foreign supplier) has been significantly minimized or prevented during the period of onsite audit delay.
FDA anticipates that receiving facilities and FSVP importers will resume onsite audits within a reasonable period of time after it becomes practicable to do so, and update their food safety plans and FSVPs accordingly. FDA intends to provide timely notice before withdrawing this policy.