The pandemic has brought with it a whole host of new procedures and protocols to protect the health of workers and minimise the spread of the virus.

Food manufacturers have been unanimous in insisting those two objectives are imperative to their operations. However, the nature of the industry dictates that their businesses are equally geared towards maintaining the efficacy of their raison d’être – the product itself.


Although food safety is very much a business-as-usual concern for industry operators, audits represent one aspect of the status quo disrupted by the pandemic, with manufacturers either deferring them or holding them virtually.

“The expectation is that virtual audits are here for the foreseeable future, until there is substantial reopening and easing of social distancing requirements,”​ says Paul Morrison, portfolio director for food end markets and microbiology at PerkinElmer.

For many food producers such as meat and poultry processors, in-plant inspections by regulatory agencies have gone on during the pandemic, Morrison adds.

“The expectation is that as COVID-19 recedes, the deferred and virtual audits will return to a pre-pandemic state. The question is when.”


‘Muscle memory’

As he points out, food processors must ensure they are maintaining and adhering to their food safety plans despite the challenges and impediments created by COVID-19, since the microbiology and chemical risks associated with foods production remain the same.

This point is echoed by Paul Anderson, managing director of UV-Safe, who also acknowledges that some operators are having to fulfil their food safety obligations with a significantly reduced technical workforce due to the pandemic.