Food Manufacturing During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Times of crisis shine a bright light on the importance of food access. Even before 2019’s coronavirus made its way into the United States, news of its imminent arrival sent millions of consumers to grocery store shelves. Further up the supply chain, food manufacturers braced for a surge in demand for foods typically bought in bulk during times of panic.

As shopping and manufacturing patterns are changing in response to the coronavirus, food safety remains a top priority for food manufacturers globally. Here’s how manufacturers are ensuring food safety in production during the pandemic.

What’s Happened So Far?

Most coronavirus concerns related to food manufacturing fall into two buckets: supply and safety.

To date, the pandemic has not caused any major food-related supply problems. Still, the aesthetics of panicked shoppers can create a narrative of food shortages that hasn’t actually materialized. Shoppers are gravitating to non-perishables, including canned foods and dry beans, just as they do before a hurricane or blizzard. So, while those aisles are ghost towns, others are well stocked.

But when consumers have plenty of food options, their attention turns to other concerns — notably the spread of the virus itself. While no evidence suggests this coronavirus spreads via food contamination, consumers’ radars are up. We as food manufacturers have an opportunity to assuage those fears by sharing the steps we’re actively taking to protect both our workers and the world’s food supply from contamination.

Food Supply

The supply chain in the U.S. remains healthy so far, in large part due to a highly nimble food manufacturing industry, as well as the FDA labelling food manufacturing as “essential” amidst historic levels of closures in other sectors. Where other luxury goods and services tend to be cut quickly when personal budgets change in a time of crisis, the amount of food consumed by a population remains remarkably consistent, albeit pivoting from restaurants and eating out to at-home cooking.

What is changing, however, is where and how ingredients are sourced. Imports from China have largely ground to a halt. Fortunately, the food industry does not rely exclusively on China for food ingredients, with a few notable exceptions. For the most part, food manufacturers have found alternative sources to avoid supply chain interruptions. This also presents an important moment in the development of our supply chain as many companies will see this as an opportunity to re-shore through local sourcing. Through diversification, our food supply is able to remain in-tact.

Food Safety

Although the coronavirus shows no signs of transmission via food products, consumers are instinctually leery of produce, bakery goods and other fresh items. As a result, processed foods hold an advantage in the eyes of the consumer, and food manufacturers must do everything in their power to meet expectations.

Despite what the world currently knows about coronavirus transmission, employee safety and food manufacturing sanitation both remain paramount. Not only can sick employees create manufacturing disruptions, but consumers cringe at the idea of an unhealthy person handling their food. Food manufacturing employees must frequently wash their hands and maintain exceptional overall hygiene. Protective gloves and face masks are also being used heavily to avoid any unnecessary contact with ingredients.

Allowing even a single knowingly infected employee into a manufacturing facility could lead to a plant closure. Extensive cleaning would be required to ensure protection of both people and food. With this in mind, management must require employees showing any symptoms of illness to stay at home. Many companies are using non-contact thermometers to, at a minimum, verify that all employees entering the facility are free of an elevated temperature. This level of awareness and verification of daily health is quintessential in maintaining a healthy and virus-free workplace.

In accordance with government-recommended travel guidelines and mandates, food manufacturers across the country have publicized their decisions to limit staff travel. Many have also ramped up security measures to ensure that only healthy, authorized individuals are allowed to visit, with stringent requirements around the necessity of those visits. If it isn’t mandatory for daily operations, it must wait or be done digitally.

We’re In This Together

Nearly every industry in the world is adapting to the new realities imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. While some are adjusting behind the scenes, the food industry is rightfully under the microscope.

At a time when increased scrutiny and dramatic process changes are necessary to ensure a safe, robust food supply chain, PacMoore is setting the standard for manufacturing, safety, and sanitary excellence. Regardless of any market-shaking headline, our business model was designed to adapt. We at PacMoore are actively following both government and medical announcements and implementing every necessary measure to protect your food.

During the coronavirus pandemic and beyond, PacMoore remains committed to producing safe and readily-available food through our contract manufacturing services. Contact us to learn more about our response to COVID-19 or watch the video below of our CEO talking through the steps we’ve implemented to protect the world’s food supply. Please reach out; we would love to discuss ways in which we can help your business thrive.