Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – To keep New York’s food processing industry safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornell University’s Institute for Food Safety has created a comprehensive, practical and convenient website for commercial processors: Food Industry Resources for Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Coherent safety information for food processing plants in New York and other states can be difficult to find, said Sam Alcaine, assistant professor of food science, who led the writing of the descriptive text for the new website. Food processors need to figure out what is relevant for protecting the public and their own employees, and for helping to maintain a safe food supply for the U.S.
“Our goal with the COVID-19 resources website was to curate key information in one place,” Alcaine said, “and to provide access to Cornell faculty and experts for up-to-date industry-specific questions.”
The website’s guidance ranges from keeping a proper social distance and washing hands, to cleaning and disinfecting large food manufacturing facilities and food retail stores, as per direction from the state’s Department of Health and Department of Agriculture and Markets. The team has also collaborated with external groups, like the National Dairy Center network, to ensure food industry specific guidance is provided to minimize personnel risks due to COVID-19 illness, to protect employees and to maintain a functional and safe supply chain.
One important, frequently asked question on the site: Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the food we produce? Answer: There is no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 is transmitted through food consumption, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the European Food Safety Agency.
Olga Padilla-Zakour, professor of food science and director of the Cornell Food Venture Center, said food industry processors must know where to find reliable information, especially during this crisis.
“We are trying to prevent miscommunication, misinformation and industry personnel not knowing what to do,” she said. “We want to make sure that food manufacturing is safe and following proper practices to mitigate any risks.”
“With good safety practices, we can manage and avoid the potential for unintended consequences,” said Martin Wiedmann, professor of food science and director of Cornell’s New York State Milk Quality Improvement Program.
In addition to Alcaine, Padilla-Zakour and Wiedmann, faculty and extension experts curating this website and offering to speak to food industry members include:
- Rob Ralyea, senior extension associate, and Kimberly Bukowski, extension professional, for dairy questions;
- Elizabeth Bihn, senior extension associate, and Michele Humiston, extension support specialist, for fresh produce;
- Randy Worobo, professor of food microbiology, for processed fruits and vegetables;
- Anna Katharine Mansfield, professor of enology, and Chris Gerling, senior extension associate, for fermented beverages; and
- Bruno Xavier, senior extension associate, for processed foods.
Alcaine, Olga Padilla-Zakour and Wiedmann will also hold special online 'office hours' to answer questions from food industry representatives on the burgeoning COVID-19 crisis. Additional information here: Professors to field food industry COVID-19 queries.
For additional information on the website, see this Cornell Chronicle story.
Please find other experts at Cornell available to discuss the coronavirus crisis from a science and public health perspective, for its impact on the economy and in the ways the pandemic is changing our daily lives.