Food safety and quality

Food safety guidance to support COVID-19 risk mitigation among agri-food workers


Food production, marketing and distribution are essential services. However, with the worrying number of incidents emerging where markets and processing facilities became “hubs of COVID-19 infection”, there is growing concern about the potential impacts of COVID-19 and related containment efforts on food security and livelihoods, especially in contexts of high vulnerability and where populations are already experiencing food crises. Under a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) to support COVID-19 awareness-raising and sensitization campaigns among food chain workers, three FAO publications, including a policy brief on food safety (scroll down for titles and links), were selected to be translated from English into Arabic, French and Spanish.

While there is no evidence that animals or food of animal origin can transmit the COVID-19 virus to humans, preventing contamination in the food chain will lessen the risk of essential food chain workers becoming ill with the virus and causing a disruption in the supply chain.

Promoting greater awareness

The primary target for these translated publications, and indeed for the project as a whole, are priority countries included in the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2020 and other FAO response plans. Translating the texts rendered them accessible to stakeholders in countries where Arabic, French and Spanish are spoken, thereby greatly expanding the outreach of the project. The Food Safety in the time of COVID-19 policy brief was selected as it includes guidance on preventing contamination in the food chain, cleaning of tools and equipment, and other ways of reducing food safety risks.

Target audience

Given the particular vulnerability of food chain workers in food-insecure countries, the impacts of the pandemic on their food security and livelihoods – and on the functioning of the food chains they make possible – is of serious concern. One of the activities of this project is to target a higher level audience, e.g. policymakers and stakeholders, to spread the message that food chain workers are essential workers too, and therefore it is imperative that they are protected. This is being done by raising awareness on how to stay safe at work during the pandemic. In short, the project’s communication and advocacy campaign seeks to:

  • share practical information with food chain workers to help them stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • advocate for greater policy and resource attention to ensure the safety of food chain workers in the COVID-19 context.

Where are they being used?

The publications are being shared in Arabic, English, French and Spanish on various FAO platforms and disseminated as part of a wider communications toolbox developed under this project for country offices. Other communications products to be included in the COVID-19 food chain risk mitigation communications toolbox include radio read-out scripts, posters developed for food chain sectors and ready-to-fill templates for country office staff to adapt posters to the local context. KORE, the knowledge management and sharing platform of the Office of Emergencies and Resilience (OER), is also developing a series of animated films that will give an overview of emerging response typologies for COVID-19 sensitization within food crisis countries. This will be complemented by photo galleries, live films, and initial impacts and evidence gathered during a handful of in-country missions.

The products developed specifically for the communications toolbox relay key messages that were identified and consolidated with guidance from a working group composed of technical experts from several partner organizations, such as OIE, WHO and others. Key messages were developed per target group (workers / industry / policymakers) and per food chain sector (animal health and production / processing / distribution / retail and food services / consumers).

Upcoming webinar

The HQ-based project implementation team, together with the working group, will hold a webinar on 30 June 2021 focused on occupational health and safety along the food supply chain. This virtual event is being organized as part of the webinar series on Risk Communication and Community engagement for COVID-19 prevention along the food supply chain. For more information and to access registration, click here.

Extending the reach

This project has linked various divisions within FAO, for example with the project team liaising with the Food Safety division and Aquaculture and Fisheries division during the translation phase of the selected publications. The team implementing the project is led by the OER Global Programme Support Team and is composed of colleagues from across OER, the Office of Corporate Communication, and the Animal Production and Health division. In addition, the working group brings together a variety of external partners and FAO colleagues (including food safety officers), and was formed at the beginning of the project implementation phase to provide guidance in defining key areas for risk mitigation actions along the food supply chain. The working group serves to help strengthen multi-sectoral coordination across relevant sectors to mitigate risks of COVID-19 transmission along the food supply chain.

Through the consolidation of key risk reduction messages on COVID-19 targeting various food chain workers and sectors, customized communication materials are being developed under this project to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on food workers and members of rural communities.

Download the publications:

  Food safety in the time of COVID-19 in Arabic, English, French, Spanish

  The effect of COVID-19 on fisheries and aquaculture in Asia in Arabic, English, French, Spanish

  Guidance note: Risk communication and community engagement - Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in English, French and Spanish


Photo: FAO/Petterik Wiggers

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