Written by: Lacie Dotterweich | February 5, 2021
“Buckle up, it may be a wild ride,” said Gary Huddleston, the American Feed Industry Association’s director of feed manufacturing and regulatory affairs, at the 2021 Feed Education Program.
That is the best phrase to summarize what came out of the program and what the animal food industry can expect in the coming year.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s number one priority is going to be an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID-19,” Huddleston said. “We have seen every indication from [President] Biden that he is pointing OSHA to work on it.”
Right out of the gate, big things are coming from OSHA in the new year and new administration. Huddleston believes that any kind of ETS will likely become a permanent pandemic standard, “whatever it is, we will probably have it forever.” If a standard is deemed necessary, it could be issued as soon as March 15.
What could an ETS look like? Huddleston said we can look to the states to see what it might entail. Early in the pandemic, a few states issued an ETS. For example, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an ETS that applies to every place of employment and has requirements based on exposure risk level, such as training, personal protective equipment, anti-discrimination, hazard assessment, physical distancing, cleaning and infectious disease preparedness and response plans.
Other U.S. Department of Labor early priorities will include inspections, maximum penalties, a powered industrial trucks standard revision, Lock-Out-Tag-Out revisions, hazard communication standard revisions and walking-working surfaces standard corrections.
Christian Richter, principal at The Policy Group, outlined what we are seeing at the Environmental Protection Agency and how the agency’s agenda will unfold.
“We are seeing a rather significant shift with Democrats being in control,” Richter said. He suggested that the new Congress may rescind the Trump administration regulatory rollbacks.
On the climate front, Richter described it as, “such a new discussion from the last four years.” He said, “Everyone will be looking at how it impacts not only agriculture but transportation and energy as well.” The EPA will have a big role in Biden’s new, sweeping executive order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis At Home and Abroad.” A new priority for the agency will also include environmental justice, with a focus on disadvantaged communities and how they are impacted by pollution.
“We will see a much more formalized way of building it into decision making,” Richter commented.
Other action items could include further action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and taking a closer look at the Trump version of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, with more aggressive discussion on revising it or rolling it back.
“Water is the number one area to look at when improving biosecurity in a feed facility,” said Richard Obermeyer, Aviagen’s director of feed production. “Standing water is a bacterial reservoir and a major fomite for viruses and salmonella.”
Got standing water? Obermeyer says that getting rid of any possible water spots is a must, as vehicles drive through it, people walk through it and it provides hydration for rodents, birds and other animals.
Obermeyer’s discussion on food safety and biosecurity practices related to feed manufacturing facilities focused not so much on planning but on the pathogens and feed facilities themselves. While viruses and salmonella each have unique sizes, shapes, viabilities and movements, each and every mill is unique in size design, products and capacities.
“These unique characteristics affect the facilities’ ability to mitigate or eliminate pathogens,” said Obermeyer.
For example, every facility’s receiving area is different, but nonetheless, it is important to ensure the area and pit is dry at all times. For facilities that use a pit cover, Obermeyer prompted the following questions:
Overall, Obermeyer lists three specific areas that a feed mill should prioritize when improving biosecurity: water; other vectors including organic material (dust), rodents, wild birds and traffic; and cleaning and disinfecting.
“These are things you can control,” Obermeyer emphasized. “And ultimately, you are improving the product you deliver to your customers, giving them assurance that it’s safe.”
When the Food and Drug Administration’s inspection plans were derailed early in the pandemic in March and April last year, it brought about the conversation of how federal food safety inspections will go forward in the future. Leah Wilkinson, AFIA’s vice president of public policy and education, speculated that the new world of inspections will have a more comprehensive approach.
“The FDA is progressing to stacking of the inspections, all of them taking place at one time and rolling checklists together,” Wilkinson said.
While Zoom meetings will continue for the time being, Wilkinson noted, “Even if in-person inspections aren’t happening, be prepared to tell your story and stay compliant. Make sure your employees know what to do and who to call if an inspector shows up, what documents they can see, what can they take pictures of, etc. Whether or not an inspector if coming, compliance is needed. We need to be compliant with our regulations.”
These are some of the highlights of our Feed Education Program this year. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta for next year’s free Feed Education Program on Jan. 26, 2022!
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