By Brita Ball
The pandemic has led to thousands of essential food workers becoming ill or asymptomatic carriers of the virus. Many have spread the virus to their loved ones. Hundreds of people with connections to the food industry have died from COVID-19 or complications from associated co-morbidities.
Meat processing plants have been hit hard. Companies have been forced to retool, and shut down temporarily to stop the virus from spreading among their employees, disrupting the food supply. Farms have similarly been affected due to tight working and living conditions. Grocery stores that have stayed open have reduced customer access and adjusted operations, some shifting their efforts to online storefronts. Restaurants have closed or modified their menus and systems to provide takeout options when there previously were none. Even food inspection agencies have altered their approaches in order to reduce risk to their employees. While much of the emphasis in workplaces recently has been on reducing health risk among employees, it is equally important to foster and maintain a strong, positive food safety culture to protect the food supply.