New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today highlighted the release of several updated interim guidance documents that will assist retail food stores and grocery home delivery providers in operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following best practices for cleaning, social distancing, and safeguarding vulnerable populations is critical for those businesses that remain open as essential food supply chain industries. This guidance is a key part of Governor Cuomo’s response to COVID-19 and is part of a larger suite of information to assist critical industries. The Department previously issued guidance for farmers’ markets and restaurants selling groceries as well.
Commissioner Ball said, “The Department is working hard to ensure that New York’s essential businesses know how to operate safely during this challenging time. The guidance we have released will help grocery stores and other food retail businesses keep their workers and customers safe and take steps to protect vulnerable populations. We are grateful for the efforts of all those who are keeping food on New Yorkers’ tables – thank you for your service.”
Keeping the food retail community informed on the ongoing COVID-19 situation, these interim guidance documents address cleaning and disinfecting stores, including high-risk locations, and properly storing and shipping food. Additionally, recommendations are made to protect consumers, like implementing special hours for seniors and vulnerable populations, having hygiene products available for use in the store, promoting a six-foot social distance and store capacity limit, and more. Stores should also ensure proper protocols are in place for the safety of employees, including providing face coverings. The full guidance can be read at the links below:
Additional Guidance for the Food Industry
All guidance documents and additional details are located on the Department’s website at agriculture.ny.gov/coronavirus, which is updated on a regular basis as new information becomes available. In addition to food retail stores, the Department has issued guidance for operators and customers of farmers’ markets and restaurants. The Department has also compiled and published a general resource guide for the agricultural community, which includes information on important actions and resources that have been to help New York’s food retail businesses, and information on other areas, including animal health, mental health, and more. The resource guide is available at agriculture.ny.gov/covid-19-resource-guide.
Michael Durant, President and CEO of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, said: “The Food Industry Alliance of NYS has been more than appreciative of the coordination and collaboration between State Agriculture and Markets and the retail food industry. As we have navigated this public health crisis, we have worked together to ensure the food supply chain remains healthy and that necessary and reasonable protections for retail food workers and their customers have been implemented.”
Ted Potrikus, President and CEO of the Retail Council of New York State, said: “The retail industry’s absolute top priority is keeping our stores safe and sanitized for shoppers and for the workers who come in every day to keep the shelves stocked. The Department has been an exemplary partner in keeping us informed – a reliable and up-to-the-minute source for the latest guidance and information to help us in our mission. We’re working together every day to make sure that stores are clean, the shopping public is safe, and our front-line workers are protected.”
Jim Calvin, President of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Throughout the COVID-19 emergency, expert guidance from the Department of Agriculture and Markets has helped New York’s convenience stores fulfill their commitment to keeping their shops clean and their customers and employees safe.”
The Retail Council of New York State
The Retail Council of New York State has launched RetailNewYork.com, an online directory to help independent merchants throughout New York State publicize their current business information and connect with consumers. The site has contact information for small businesses, as well as information about how to order online for delivery or pickup, depending on the store. There is also a space for customer reviews.
About Food Safety During COVID-19
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Consumers should continue to practice social distancing at grocery stores and farmers’ markets and follow proper hand washing guidelines. They should also continue to follow standard food safety measures. For more information on this and food safety as it pertains to COVID-19, please visit the FDA’s Frequently Asked Questions or see their infographic on this topic.
The Department continues its routine food safety inspections at food and beverage manufacturing plants, dairy processing plants, and all retail food stores.