NEWARK, DEL. - The Produce Marketing Association has released guidelines instructing food distributors on what to do in the case of an employee testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) and what measures to put in place to limit person-to-person transmission. PMA’s guidelines were formed under policies and suggestions from US government agencies working to contain the virus. 

In the case an employee at a food processing facility tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) employers should: 

  • Inform fellow employees of possible exposure while maintaining confidentiality; mandate sick employees to stay home and have two negative COVID-19 tests in a row and consultation with a physician before returning to work 

  • Place additional cleaning efforts in the affected facility (approved cleaning solutions along with supplier names can be found here

  • Determine whether/when/how to close the food facility based on guidelines set by local and state health departments which may vary. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is clear that food products do not need to be recalled in the case of an employee testing positive for COVID-19. There is no evidence supporting transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging. 

Since the virus is spread from person-to-person contact there are many precautions facilities can take to avoid transmission of the disease: 

  • Ensure employees are wearing masks and disposable gloves 

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved sanitizer products in cleaning and sanitizing practices; promote frequent hand washing among employees and customers 

  • Provide single-use tissues and trash receptables 

  • Limit facility access to essential staff 

  • Limit contact with delivery drivers and staff 

  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ tools and equipment 

  • Develop policies for employees to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms 

  • Immediately isolate employees who have signs of COVID-19 

  • Develop and implement workplace flexibilities including paid sick leave or leave to care for a family member, not requiring a doctor's note, etc. 

PMA also recommends that employers consider taking preventative measures such as temperature taking and health assessment. Elevated temperature is one of the symptoms of COVID-19, and temperature taking can help identify sick employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC) issued an update allowing employers to implement temperature screening measures in response to COVID-19. 

For more information and advisement on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in work facilities visit PMA’s website here