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Handling COVID-19 on produce farms and in packinghouses

While there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is a food safety concern, it is a worker health concern as it spreads via close person-to-person contact or by contact with contaminated surfaces.

Food does not appear to be a likely cause of COVID-19 transmission, but many of the same practices used to prevent foodborne illness on foods should be used to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 contamination on fresh produce and the risk of COVID-19 spreading among workers.

Producers should educate workers on COVID-19 symptoms, how it spreads and how to reduce the spread of the disease.

Following are some guidelines from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to share with employees:

  • Instruct workers to stay home if they are sick (coughing, sore throat, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.).
  • Reassure employees that they will not be punished for missing work due to illness.
  • Have a plan in place and communicate in advance how you will address workers who do not want to miss a paycheck (paid sick leave, etc.).
  • All employees must wash their hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This includes when employees arrive to work, before they handle food, after breaks or after using the restroom, etc.

More tips from the University of Georgia can be found here. Also check out this document from GlobalGAP, featuring COVID-19 guidelines for producers.


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