In light of the need for protective measures against COVID-19, regulatory agencies have adjusted their inspection practices.
The Food and Drug Administration has “temporarily postponed all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections. These are facility inspections the FDA traditionally conducts every few years based on a risk analysis.”
- FDA said the announcement reflected a concern not only for “the health and well-being of our staff” but also “industry concerns about visitors.”
- However, “for-cause inspections” will continue “if mission-critical.” These would include traceback investigations and similar activities.
Several agencies at the Department of Agriculture announced they will continue to provide services such as inspection that are vital to the food supply chain, which is considered critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security.
- The Food Safety and Inspection Service stated that “meat, poultry, and processed egg inspection services continue as normal.”
- The Agricultural Marketing Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will “continue to provide critical inspections and grading services.”
- Nevertheless, the agencies are conscious that disruptions could occur should their employees or plant employees test positive for the novel coronavirus or be self-quarantined because of exposure. FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker told industry representatives that the agency has a list of its employees who are not currently in plants, but have experience there, and can be moved into inspection duties if necessary.