Commonly Asked Questions
Is there risk of COVID-19 spread through contaminated produce or packaging?
Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission (FDA). The FDA does not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market because of COVID-19.
What are the Recommendations for Surface Sanitation?
While the primary responsibility in this instance is to take appropriate actions to protect other workers and people who might have come in contact with the ill employee, facilities should reevaluate their cleaning and sanitation efforts to control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill regardless of the type of virus or bacteria. For example, facilities are required to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces.
EPA-registered disinfectant products for COVID-19
Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 list that have qualified under EPA emerging viral pathogen program for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Facilities are required to control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill regardless of the type of virus or bacteria, such as maintaining clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces, adhere to health and hygiene practices, and train their workers so they recognize and notify symptoms of illness.
Employer Actions Steps
Your farm workforce is not immune to coronavirus, please begin taking steps to protect yourself and your employees.
- Talk with your employees about coronavirus, how it spreads, and how to prevent getting infected.
- Print the CDC factsheets and posters, post in your workplace and employee housing facilities.
- Provide guidance to help employees clean and disinfect employer-provided housing. Follow up with employees and manage the process to be sure that this happens. Set up a regular weekly and daily schedule for cleaning.
- Clean and disinfect your workplace. The employee breakroom and bathroom are great places for virus to be transmitted. Clean and disinfect any areas where employees congregate or routinely touch items such as doorknobs and computer keyboards. Set up daily and weekly cleaning schedules.
- Provide cleaning supplies such as cleaning solutions, buckets, mops, brushes, etc for cleaning at work and for those living in employer-provided housing. (CDC list of approved antimicrobial cleaning products: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/sars-cov-2-list_03-03-2020.pdf)
- Review your sick leave policy. The first advice for people who are sick is to stay home except to get medical care. Do you provide paid sick leave for your employees? If you do not, will employees feel financially obligated to come to work even if they are sick?
- Communicate with employees that they should stay home if they are sick. Employees sometimes come to work believing they will face punishment or firing if they miss work. Be sure your employees understand that their health and that of their co-workers’ comes first. Communicate and make a plan to cover for sick employees. CDC provides posters in English and Spanish covering symptoms of novel coronavirus.
- Prepare your disaster contingency plan. What will you do if 50% of your employees become sick and unable to work? Are there neighboring farms who might be able to share resources in an emergency? Who will manage for a few weeks if you or another key manager are unable to leave your house or are hospitalized?
Public Health Covid-19 Page
WSU Food Systems COVID-19 Hub
WSU Extension Food Safety Program COVID-19 Resources for the Washington Produce Industry
Agricultural COVID-19 Requirements
COVID-19 Information for Agriculture and Food Businesses
COVID-19 Preventative Measures for Produce Farms
Guidance from WSDA
Best Practices from Cornell University
Small Farms, Local Food, and COVID-19 from Oregon State University Small Farms Program
Coronavirus Food Industry Resources from Cornell University
Washington Young Farmers Farm Resilience and COVID-19 Resource List
CDC Posters to Help Stop the Spread
Produce safety training from USDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule
Online version of the Produce Safety Training printed manual
Produce Safety Alliance Facebook page
Financial Programs and Emergency Funding
Coronavirus Relief Options from SBA
In addition to traditional SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) funding programs, the CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
Small Business Emergency Grants from Washington State Department of Commerce