FMI-The Food Industry Association hailed a decision by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to classify food and agriculture and transportation and logistics as “essential, critical infrastructure” in the nation’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
CISA this week named 16 business sectors whose workers are considered vital to the functioning of critical U.S. infrastructure during times of crisis, currently the spread of coronavirus nationwide and resulting shutdown of large portions of the economy and sheltering of communities across the country.
“Whether it’s during a natural disaster or a national emergency, the food industry does what it does best: cares for customers and communities, managing to rise to the occasion and provide solid customer service when it matters most,” FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said in a statement. “The supply chain continues to adapt to meet the new levels of demand, and being deemed an essential workforce allows the industry to restock and replenish products across the country without interruption.
Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI-The Food Industry Association (Photo courtesy of FMI)
In the food sector, CISA designated the following as among “essential” employees: workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retailers that sell food and beverages; restaurant carryout and quick-serve food operations; carryout and delivery food employees; food manufacturers and their suppliers, including food processing (packers, meat processing, cheese plants, milk plants, produce, etc.); beverage production facilities; and makers of food packaging.
Also on the list of essential food workers are those who support the sanitation of all food manufacturing processes and operations, from wholesale to retail; company cafeterias used to feed employees; and assistance programs and government payments.
“In the midst of challenges to keep products flowing, the needs of all their customers and partners – including WIC and SNAP shoppers – remain top-of-mind,” Sarasin said. “I am honored to work in this industry that is resilient in answering the challenges arising during this national emergency. I know the food industry is doing its very best to get shoppers food and basic necessities to help offer comfort and nourishment during this uncertain time.”
In the transportation and logistics sector — integral for moving food and consumer packaged goods from manufacturers to distributors/wholesalers to retailers — workers deemed critical by CISA include those who support and enable transportation functions (such as dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers, truck-stop and rest-area workers) and provide services that enable logistics operations (such as cooling, storing, packaging and distributing products for wholesale or retail).
Also on the transportation/logistics list, among others, are manufacturers and distributors of packaging materials, pallets, crates, containers and other supplies needed to support manufacturing, packaging staging and distribution operations.
“As the nation comes together to slow the spread of COVID-19, everyone has a role to play in protecting public health and safety. Many of the men and women who work across our nation’s critical infrastructure industries are hard at work keeping the lights on, water flowing from the tap, groceries on the shelves, among other countless essential services,” stated CISA Director Christopher Krebs. “As the nation’s risk adviser, this list is meant to provide additional guidance to state and local partners, as well as industry, building on the president’s statement that critical infrastructure industries have a special responsibility to keep normal operations.”
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