COVID-19 Pandemic: Michigan Apple Industry Response

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, food and agriculture have been deemed essential services. The Michigan Apple industry has adapted and continued to supply apples throughout this crisis. Donations were made to food banks to assist those in need. Farmers continued their dedication to providing a safe food supply. Meanwhile, farms and food industry struggled to obtain PPE and other necessary equipment for their own operations. Additional requirements were placed on employers, and farmers invested millions of dollars in additional safety measures for their product and their workers. The industry continues to persevere and carry on the tradition of producing fresh quality fruit for consumers, knowing healthy food is needed now, more than ever.

Worker Safety

The apple industry is committed to the safety of its workers. Apple businesses and their workers are an essential part of feeding American consumers and the world at a time when healthy fruits are more in need than ever. 

Recognizing the importance of keeping apple workers safe during this challenging time, the apple industry has implemented and expanded safety procedures, including requirements for in-field and packing house sanitation, employer-provided transportation and on-farm housing.

Prior to this crisis, apple growers and packers already had strict sick worker and handwashing policies. With every stage of the emerging COVID-19 crisis, our industry has worked hard to embrace all public health advice for social distancing, personal and facility hygiene, face coverings and more.

Growers and packers have implemented protocols based on available guidance from the CDC, OSHA and FDA, as well as state and local public health, agricultural and employment safety agencies. As a whole, the industry has been successful at keeping the transmission of the virus low on farms that have strictly followed these safety mandates and guidance.

As active members of their communities, apple growers and businesses are diligent in keeping their workers safe to also ensure the health of their communities. These communities are places where growers attend church, grocery shop and send their children to school.

Apple growers have requested and applied for federal financial and regulatory assistance

  • To prioritize PPE and future vaccines for critical employees and businesses within the food sector;
  • To assure COVID-19 testing resources are available and accessible to agriculture employers and employees and that results are delivered promptly; and
  • Growers and the broader agriculture community have asked the White House to provide additional assistance, such as FEMA trailers or RVs for alternate worker housing to help facilitate social distancing and quarantine.

Apple Businesses Invest in Protecting Workers

To keep workers safe, the Michigan’s apple industry has made millions of dollars in upgrades to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in orchards and packing houses. From face masks and thermometers to construction and operational changes to allow for social distancing in the packinghouse and the orchard, the costs related to COVID-19 are as numerous as they are substantial.

Food Safety

According to the FDA, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.    It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. It’s always important to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill

With numerous food production, packing and shipping regulations consumers can be assured that the United States has the safest food supply in the world. Multiple yearly audits and inspections take place at farms and other production facilities to ensure food is getting to market safely. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic food producers have made great investments in additional measures to keep their products and their workers safe.

Links to additional information

Michigan.gov/Coronavirus

Michigan.gov/MDARD

Centers for Disease Control - CDC

Food and Drug Administration - FDA 

USDA

 

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