The situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) is evolving rapidly. This webpage will continue to be updated regularly as changes to the situation warrant.
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A number of program participants have audits that are already scheduled and are coming up in the next few weeks. Note that Certification Bodies (CBs) are postponing CanadaGAP audits planned between now and mid-April, and will contact the affected operations directly regarding certificate extensions and rescheduling of audits.
If you have questions about your certificate or about audits that were planned for the near future, we encourage you to contact your certification body for more information.
Beyond the middle of April, other audits may also be postponed due to continued limitation on travel or concerns about exposure to potentially infected individuals. If your certificate is due to expire in April or May, your Certification Body will be in contact with you about extending your certificate and rescheduling your audit. Newly enrolled program participants who are not yet certified may be given the option to proceed with an audit to ensure they can meet their customer requirements.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), to which the CanadaGAP program is benchmarked, has communicated to CanadaGAP that based on risk assessment, certification bodies may be able to extend certificates for up to six months under extraordinary circumstances. CanadaGAP certification bodies will be contacting program participants in the event that the CB cannot proceed with planned audits at your operation, and will provide information about certificate extensions. If you have concerns about the timing of your certificate expiry, we encourage you to contact your certification body.
At this point, certification bodies are still expected to proceed with an audit during the extension period. In addition, monitoring and surveillance activities (e.g., regular communication, desktop review of records, phone interviews, etc.) may be required for CBs to ensure ongoing compliance with food safety requirements within the certified operation. Depending on the continuing impact of the coronavirus, CBs may have to consider other approaches to on-site auditing (e.g., virtual or remote alternatives). At this time, GFSI does not support any substitute for on-site audits but they are evaluating the options because of the rapidly evolving situation.
March 30, 2020 – Update on GFSI position
Food Safety Impact
We have received questions about the safety of food products. To date there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmissible via food (i.e., it does NOT appear to be a foodborne illness). Following are some links containing helpful information about transmission routes:
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA):
- Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC): How COVID-19 spreads
- Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC): Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Information for industry
- Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA): COVID-19 Updates
- World Health Organization (WHO): How COVID-19 is spread (See FAQ near the bottom: “Is it safe to receive a package…”)
- European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): Coronavirus: no evidence that food is a source or transmission route
- U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): FAQ’s – scroll to “How it Spreads”
- U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
We will keep you informed if further scientific information comes to light.
Impact on Supply of Food Safety-Related Items
We have received inquiries about a shortage of hand sanitizer. We have been reassured by public health officials that the current shortage of supplies is expected to be short-lived; they do not expect empty shelves to continue indefinitely. Officials have been making efforts to communicate with the public that there is no need for panic or for hoarding of supplies. There has also been clear communication that the issue is not with suppliers, but rather with excessive demand as people stock up. The situation is expected to ease over the coming weeks; please be patient.
If you are experiencing an immediate issue with lack of supplies and need guidance on alternatives (for example, guidance on making your own hand sanitizer), please follow expert recommendations and retain the instructions to show your auditor. Examples include:
- World Health Organization: WHO-recommended Handrub Formulations
- U.S. FDA: Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19): Guidance for Industry
How to maintain a safe workplace
Public Safety Canada’s National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure defines critical infrastructure as “processes, systems, facilities, technologies, networks, assets and services essential to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of government”.
Food and Agriculture is included as one of the 10 elements of critical infrastructure.
- Public Safety Canada – National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure
- U.S.A Department of Homeland Security – Memorandum on identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response
→ How to prepare and keep food business operations safe
Food businesses, including agricultural operations, are essential services. How can operations prepare themselves?
- Public Health Agency of Canada:
- Being Prepared – scroll to ‘For workplaces’
- Resources for Canadians businesses
- Guidance Document: Risk-informed decision-making guidelines for workplaces and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- World Health Organization (WHO): Guidance on getting your workplace ready for COVID-19
→ What happens if an employee becomes ill?
- Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC): How do we manage on the farm?
- U.S. FDA – scroll to ‘Questions and Answers’: Food Safety and COVID-19
- CDC: Disinfecting Your Facility if Someone is Sick
- WHO: WHO water sanitation, hygiene, and waste management for COVID-19 virus interim guidance provides options for safe cleaning practices (e.g., page 3, #5, page 4, #2)
- UK: Guidance to Employers and Businesses about COVID-19
- U.S. Food Industry Recommended Protocols When Employee/Customer Tests Positive for COVID-19
- United Fresh Produce Association: Coronavirus: Fresh Produce Industry resource page
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC): COVID 19 – Information for Industry
Stay safe and stay healthy
In these uncertain times, we understand that there are many challenges facing everyone in the industry: program participants, retailers, manufacturers and distributors, auditors and certification bodies, and your families. As always, we are here to help with any questions or concerns.
A reminder that to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is recommended that individuals use physical distancing, maintaining approximately 6 feet from others when possible. In food and agriculture operations, an evaluation should be made to identify and implement operational changes that increase employee separation. The risk of an employee transmitting COVID-19 to another is dependent on distance between employees, the duration of the exposure, and the effectiveness of employee hygiene practices and sanitation. Operations should be vigilant in their hygiene practices, including frequent and proper hand-washing and routine cleaning of all surfaces.
Please follow the advice of your local public health authorities to practice social distancing with suppliers, employees, vehicle drivers, customers and anyone else who may frequent your operation.