The increase in deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed funeral homes and morgues beyond capacity, and other measures have been taken to store the bodies of victims. As a result, refrigerated food transport vehicles and food storage units have been temporarily used for this purpose. Now, FDA has released the guidance document, “Returning Refrigerated Transport Vehicles and Refrigerated Storage Units to Food Uses After Using Them to Preserve Human Remains During the COVID-19 Pandemic” because when those additional storage units are no longer needed to store bodies, “industry may wish to return the trailers and storage units to use for food transport and storage”.
Returning these vehicles and storage units to use for food is possible—but only with thorough cleaning and disinfection. The agency recommends the use of EPA-registered disinfectants that are suitable for the material being disinfected. It also recommends these disinfectants be effective against SARS-CoV-2 and foodborne pathogens. When disinfecting, it is important to adhere to the instructions for use for guidance on how many times application is required, the contact time needed, and effectiveness at refrigeration temperatures. For instances in which the interior surfaces have been in direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, the FDA guidance provides the scenarios in which the vehicles and storage units should not be returned to use for transporting or storing food for humans or animals.
OSHA has also stated that compressed air or water sprays should not be used to clean contaminated surfaces due to the risk of aerosolizing infectious material.
Due to the public health emergency, the guidance has been issued without the agency’s usual 60-day comment period.
Personally, I wish the FDA would have just issued a directive to the businesses involved and have the the reefer units re-purpose have them used for industrial materials.
I don’t think which I don’t think the reefers that were leased as temporary morgue storage exceed 50 units The associated psychological risk costs are not be worth the few thousand of $ savings that may be targeted.
Issuing this guidance on how they can be remediated for use in handling human food material will just provide future fodder for the cold food supply chain critics out there, such as the food babes who are against the frozen foods!
Imagine the risk assessments that will be written for all refrigerated unit transportation from now on.