Covid-19 – Food Safety Concerns and Enforcement Action
In the post-Covid-19 world, it is perhaps timely to carry out a review of global food safety-related issues. The following short article, produced by Security Exchange Specialists, provides an overview of the actions which enforcement agencies are beginning to take - flexing their muscles and regaining control of the risk-based approach to food safety enforcement.
Details of Recent Activity
In the UK, like other countries, local food safety enforcement officers are starting to really scrutinise the reopening of food businesses to ensure compliance with Covid-19 issued guidance. The spate of positive Covid-19 tests in several food processing plants has proven to be a real cause for concern. The closure of such businesses shows how significant public health risks and the associated food safety concerns were. Failure to satisfy Covid-19 food safety and health requirements will result in action being taken by the relevant enforcement authorities.
In the US too, we are witnessing the beginning of enforcement action. The FDA has issued warning letters regarding listeria contamination in food products together with non-compliance in foreign suppliers’ verification programs (FSVP) for several categories of imported food products. The enforcement actions require business owners to respond to FDA warning letters within 15 days. This differs from the pre-Covid-19 norm of having several months to correct non-conformities, prior to receiving warning letters.
Notwithstanding the effects of Covid-19, small businesses in the US will have to start to consider compliance with FSMA’s Intentional Adulteration (AI) rule. Although inspections will not commence until March 2021, there has been an expectation of compliance from July 2020. Businesses will obviously have to give serious thought to their food safety management systems.
Further evidence to support food safety non-compliance can be found in a report outlining that auditors in Australia have found that Government inspection of small food businesses is overdue and that where audits have taken place, poor record-keeping has been evidenced. As a result of this, there will be an emphasis on enforcement agencies cranking up their inspection rates to identify shortfalls in food safety practices.
In Asia, there have been post Covid-19 concerns relating to a range of biological, physical, and chemical hazards in foodstuffs in China. This has serious implications for world supply chains with less scrutiny being placed on the authentication of raw materials being imported into trading countries. There can be no doubt that this situation will have an impact over the coming months.
In terms of product recalls or Covid-19 related enforcement actions which have been publicised, the following provide grounds for concern:
- Listeria in seafood - US
- Parasitic infection of bagged salad - US
- Campylobacter in raw milk - New Zealand
- Apricot kernels (poisoning issue) - New Zealand
- STEC contaminated flour - Germany
- Fraudulent food - $40 million - Globally
In recognising and anticipating the above food safety issues, Security Exchange has been working tirelessly to update the range of services and support available to clients. Security Exchange’s Centre of Excellence provides an insight into the types of products/training which clients can access.
To access our other advisories on Covid-19, including the Crisis Management Briefings, please visit us here.
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