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Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Fine Chocolate: Resources and FAQs

March 21, 2020 10:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

FCIA would like to share with you the following FAQ related to COVID-19. Information was largely sourced from the FDA, the National Coffee Association, and other allied trade associations and partners. We hope this will be useful to you as you work to protect yourselves and your businesses from this new threat.

1. What are the 2019 novel coronavirus and COVID-19?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of viruses that cause symptoms ranging from mild (like those associated with common cold) to severe, causing pneumonia and requiring hospitalization. The 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a new strain of CoV not previously seen in humans and causes the disease COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).

Read more: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

2. How is the novel coronavirus spread?

The novel coronavirus is spread from human-to-human interactions via respiratory droplets expelled through coughing and sneezing. It spreads easily between people in close physical contact with one another.

Learn more about how the novel coronavirus spreads on CDC’s resource page, “How to Prepare for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

3. Can the novel coronavirus be transmitted via food?

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), food does not appear to serve as a source or transmission route for coronaviruses.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concludes:

“…In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.” 

4. What can my company do to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus?

It is advisable to always follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) in food production, including practicing good worker hygiene (see response #5, below) and practicing proper sanitation. This is in line with the FDA’s GMP regulations from “Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk Based Preventive Controls for Human Food” rule.

5. Since restaurant workers and other service industry employees have ongoing contact with the public, are there any special precautions these workers should take to avoid becoming sick with a respiratory illness, such as wearing masks? 

CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear facemasks to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

CDC recommends everyday preventive actions for everyone, including service industry workers and customers:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethyl or 70% isopropyl alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Questions 6-10 are excerpted from the FDA’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) FAQs:

6. Is food imported to the United States from China and other countries affected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at risk of spreading COVID-19? 

Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.

7. Can I get sick with COVID-19 from touching food, the food packaging, or food contact surfaces, if the coronavirus was present on it?

Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the four key steps of food safety — clean, separate, cook, and chill.

8. Can I get COVID-19 from a food worker handling my food?

Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. However, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person in some communities in the U.S. The CDC recommends that if you are sick, stay home until you are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

Anyone handling, preparing and serving food should always follow safe food handling procedures, such as washing hands and surfaces often and taking temperatures between shifts.

9. Should food workers who are ill stay home?

CDC recommends that employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick. We recommend that businesses review CDC’s interim guidance for businesses and employers for planning and responding to coronavirus disease. Also see the FDA’s Retail Food Protection: Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook.

10. Should food facilities (grocery stores, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, etc.) perform any special cleaning or sanitation procedures for COVID-19? 

CDC recommends routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. CDC does not recommend any additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning at this time.

View the EPA-registered disinfectant products on the Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 list that have qualified under EPA's emerging viral pathogen program for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Restaurants and retail food establishments are regulated at the state and local level. State, local, and tribal regulators use the Food Code published by the FDA to develop or update their own food safety rules. Generally, FDA-regulated food manufacturers are required to maintain clean facilities, including, as appropriate, clean and sanitized food contact surfaces, and to have food safety plans in place. Food safety plans include a hazards analysis and risk-based preventive controls and include procedures for maintaining clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. See: FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food.

11. Is COVID-19 likely to impact food or other supply chains?

The potential impact of coronavirus on trade and supply is uncertain. Thus far, international trade in finished and intermediate goods has seen some significant impacts, which may continue as manufacturing and farm capacity, ground transportation, and sea freight conditions continue to evolve in China and other affected countries.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reported in February that previous pandemics such as Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) had negative impacts on food trade and prices, particularly in developing countries.

12. Are there food shortages and are supply lines at risk?

There are no food shortages in the U.S., and the food supply is safe. Out-of-stock issues are due to a spike in demand and not low supply. The U.S. Government considers food and agriculture to be part of the nation’s critical infrastructure -- If manufacturers or distributors encounter problems getting products through supply lines and onto store shelves due to local shelter-in-place orders or other blockages, they should contact FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center at NBEOC@fema.dhs.gov.

13. Should our company cancel travel and/or events?

Circumstances for each traveler and event are not the same. Here is the CDC’s latest guidance for travelers.

14. Additional Resources:

As the situation is rapidly evolving, we advise members to closely monitor the advice and guidance of relevant authorities for the most updated facts and information about COVID-19, including:

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