Correction of sorts: It seems that when Chris Gregory and I were speaking, he frequently referred to the term SKU, which is a stock keeping unit. I was hearing “skewed,” which I took to mean something that went serious off base. In that, I think we both were tracking correctly, I am just going to leave it there.
Reports about the death of federal government guidance have turned out to be premature. The federal government’s alphabet soup of food safety agencies has been churning out guidance documents for all sorts of businesses and work sites.
And where food safety is involved, it’s not just the FDA and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, but also EPA, OSHA, CDC, and others. All the “guidance” is intended to help re-start the economy with minimum risk while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hang around with vaccines still in the future.
But on the ground, things are not the same. Houston’s Myrtle Consulting Group gives Chris Gregory a perch for monitoring the manufacturing, processing, and distribution businesses including the food industry. He’s seen plenty in the last 20 years, but nothing like what he is experiencing now. He does not like the term “the new normal.”
But, according to Gregory, here’s what we are looking at:
- Absenteeism has gone wild. People are skipping out of work throughout all food business sectors, not just the meat industry.
- Manufacturers are locking down their facilities to outsiders, including their vendors and consultants. Some are limiting access to their employees for specific areas or other buildings.
- Community transmission of COVID-19 began in February, the pandemic was declared on March 12 but almost all food manufacturers waited until it came to “My Town” before doing anything about.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is doing inspections by appointment. FDA is responsible for regulating about 80 percent of the food produced for U.S. consumption.
Gregory says food manufacturers now are doing everything they can “to prevent outsiders from coming in.” Limits on such access to customers and even employees are seen as the surest way to avoid virus problems.
There is suspicion about protocols and procedures that might be drawn from all the new guidance documents various federal agencies are publishing to protect customers and employees.
Gregory says he sees business doing whatever they can to limit “exposure of people” rather than getting tied up in “if this happens, do this” suggestions.
One word Gregory uses to explain much about what has happened is “skewed.”
The food industry’s entire supply chain was skewed.
Your local mall or big box store was skewed. Except for the Walmarts or Targets, major brick and mortar stores lost an entire season of inventory.
In other words, everything is a little off or skewed.
Here are links to just some of the new guidance documents for the food industry that have been posted recently by federal agencies. State health departments and even mayors are also producing guidance documents.
- “Best Practices for Re-Opening Food Establishments During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
- Meat and Poultry Processing Workers and Employers–Interim Guidance from CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- USDA, FDA Strengthen U.S. Food Supply Chain Protections
- Businesses and Workplaces-Plan, Prepare and Respond
- Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)