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Minnesota will maintain ag inspection services

Certain adjustments such as virtual inspections may be made on a case-by-case basis.

April 6, 2020

3 Min Read
milk being inspected under microscope
INSPECTIONS CONTINUE: Minnesota Department of Agriculture inspectors will continue to do their jobs during the COVID-19 outbreak while following the general hygiene and social distancing recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health.Jovanmandic/Getty Images

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is continuing inspection services during Gov. Tim Walz’ two-week stay-at-home executive order and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes inspections of dairy, meat and food manufacturing facilities, retail food outlets, pesticide and fertilizer operations, and seed, grain, and nursery companies.

MDA inspection staff will exercise every option to conduct any field activities in a manner safe for both themselves and the industries regulated, the agency noted in a recent news release. State inspectors are following the general hygiene and social distancing recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health.

For the protection of all involved, MDA made some minor modifications to inspection services, including the practice of social distancing when possible.

Food and feed inspection

Retail food inspectors continue field services at operations including grocery stores and other retail food stores. Some inspection activities are abbreviated to focus on the food safety. MDA is also increasing its outreach by phone and email to efficiently meet information needs about food safety and COVID-19.

The manufactured food inspection program and the commercial feed program continue to perform regulatory oversight and inspection activities while prioritizing response to adverse incidents, high risk complaints and illness investigations.

The produce safety program does not have inspection activities scheduled at this time but remains available for response to a natural disaster or other major adverse event. Program staff are maintaining operations to provide technical support, education and other outreach for growers.

For more information, contact Katherine Simon, director of the Food and Feed Safety Division, at 651-201-6596 or [email protected].

Dairy processing facilities

MDA dairy inspection staff are expected to follow all biosecurity and health precautions instituted by dairy manufacturers during in-person visits, which will continue. However, MDA officials understand some facilities may be concerned about allowing inspectors to visit their facilities.

During the COVID-19 situation, MDA dairy inspectors will, upon request, conduct virtual or video-based routine inspections at dairy processing facilities in lieu of conducting in-person inspections.

Because of the importance of pasteurizer testing to ensure properly functioning pasteurizers, in-person work is expected. However, if concerns exist, alternatives may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Requests for virtual inspections or other accommodations should be made directly to the inspector.

For milk haulers, an online testing format is available to expedite milk testing and allow options for better social distancing during evaluation and licensing procedures.

For more information, contact Nicole Neeser, director of the Dairy and Meat Inspection Division, at 651-201-6225 or [email protected].

Pesticide licensing

According to recent Minnesota legislation, MDA is exempting individuals from testing and other licensing requirements to allow them to apply general use antimicrobials for hire to disinfect buildings and control the spread of COVID-19. This exemption expires April 1, 2021.

The exemption applies only to commercial application of general use pesticide products for the sanitizing or disinfecting treatment for COVID-19.

The exemption does not include those who commercially apply pesticides in HVAC systems or cooling towers in industrial, commercial and institutional buildings, residence, and other buildings to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate indoor mold, bacteria, or other microbes beyond COVID-19.

For more information, contact Roger Mackedanz, assistant director of the Pesticide and Fertilizer Management Division, at 651-201-6400 or [email protected].

Seed, grain and nursery dealers

MDA will continue to provide services, including inspections, that are mandatory for plants or plant products to be sold or moved. This includes phytosanitary certification and shipping point inspection, as well as hemp THC analysis and nursery grower inspections, and fruit and vegetable grading under MDA’s agreement with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

For other inspections that do not have a mandated timeline, such as seed, grain and nursery dealers, MDA has put those inspections on hold and will resume them when the stay-at-home order is lifted.

For more information, contact Mark Abrahamson, director of the Plant Protection Division, at 651-201-6505 or [email protected].

For any other information, reach out to MDA at [email protected].

Visit the MDA website for additional COVID-19 information and factsheets.

Source: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all of its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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