The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced that, effective August 25, 2021, federally regulated establishments are required to follow the latest CDC guidance. Establishment employees and contractors are required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when IPP are present, if located in an area of “substantial” or “high” community COVID-19 transmission. Managers and employees are to use the CDC COVID Data Tracker website, which is updated daily, to determine whether they are located in one of these areas.
FSIS will maintain ongoing communication with establishment personnel if the establishment does not follow CDC guidance and ensure that employees and contractors consistently wear masks to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission when FSIS personnel are present. As of August 25, 2021, FSIS will not provide inspection service to the establishment unless it meets this requirement to protect IPP at their establishments.
On July 28, FSIS directed its employees to wear a mask in federal buildings, regulated establishments, and government owned or leased vehicles regardless of vaccination status. On August 4, FSIS issued a notice outlining the expectation that establishments follow the CDC guidance in response to a national increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. These measures align with FSIS Directive 4791.1 Basic Occupational Safety and Health Program and FSIS Directive 4791.5 Hazard Communication Program. For FSIS employees working in privately owned establishments, the Agency does not have authority to abate hazardous conditions directly. However, the Agency is expected to provide employees with safe and healthy working conditions as part of the overall inspection process. Means used by the Agency to reduce exposure to hazardous work conditions include administrative controls and removing employees (including withdrawing IPP) from unsafe conditions as necessary for protection.
The American Association of Meat Processors has announced that it does not support the latest action plan. The association said that it “will continue to work with FSIS to find a more reasonable solution.”