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COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for competent authorities responsible for national food safety control systems

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presents an exceptional and unprecedented challenge for competent authorities with responsibilities for national food safety control systems to continue conducting routine functions and activities in accordance with national regulations and international recommendations. In many countries, competent authority staff are largely working from home, teleworking being the normal practice, and all face-to-face meetings cancelled or rescheduled as teleconferences. It is challenging to maintain, without interruption, routine activities such as the inspection of food business operations, certifying exports, control of imported foods, monitoring and surveillance of the safety of the food supply chain, sampling and analysis of food, managing food incidents, providing advice on food safety and food regulations for the food industry, and communicating on food safety issues with the public.

The guidance highlights temporary measures that can be introduced to contain widespread food safety risks and reduce serious disruption to national food safety programmes, aiming to ensure the effectiveness of a reduced food safety inspection programme during COVID-19 pandemic in mitigation the food safety risks.