Controlling risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in essential workers of enclosed food manufacturing facilities

Julia S. Sobolik, Elizabeth T. Sajewski, Lee Ann Jaykus, D. Kane Cooper, Ben A. Lopman, Alicia N.M. Kraay, P. Barry Ryan, Juan S. Leon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The SARS-CoV-2 global pandemic poses significant health risks to workers who are essential to maintaining the food supply chain. Using a quantitative risk assessment model, this study characterized the impact of risk reduction strategies for controlling SARS-CoV-2 transmission (droplet, aerosol, fomite-mediated) among front-line workers in a representative indoor fresh fruit and vegetable manufacturing facility. We simulated: 1) individual and cumulative SARS-CoV-2 infection risks from close contact (droplet and aerosols at 1–3 m), aerosol, and fomite-mediated exposures to a susceptible worker following exposure to an infected worker during an 8 h-shift; and 2) the relative reduction in SARS-CoV-2 infection risk attributed to infection control interventions (physical distancing, mask use, ventilation, surface disinfection, hand hygiene, vaccination). Without mitigation measures, the SARS-CoV-2 infection risk was largest for close contact (droplet and aerosol) at 1 m (0.96, 5th – 95th percentile: 0.67–1.0). In comparison, risk associated with fomite (0.26, 5th – 95th percentile: 0.10–0.56) or aerosol exposure alone (0.05, 5th – 95th percentile: 0.01–0.13) at 1 m distance was substantially lower (73–95%). At 1 m, droplet transmission predominated over aerosol and fomite-mediated transmission, however, this changed by 3 m, with aerosols comprising the majority of the exposure dose. Increasing physical distancing reduced risk by 84% (1–2 m) and 91% (1–3 m). Universal mask use reduced infection risk by 52–88%, depending on mask type. Increasing ventilation (from 0.1 to 2–8 air changes/hour) resulted in risk reductions of 14–54% (1 m) and 55–85% (2 m). Combining these strategies, together with handwashing and surface disinfection, resulted in <1% infection risk. Partial or full vaccination of the susceptible worker resulted in risk reductions of 73–92% (1 m risk range: 0.08–0.26). However, vaccination paired with other interventions (ACH 2, mask use, or distancing) was necessary to achieve infection risks <1%. Current industry SARS-CoV-2 risk reduction strategies, particularly when bundled, provide significant protection to essential food workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108632
JournalFood Control
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerosol
  • And fomite-mediated transmission
  • COVID-19
  • Droplet
  • Quantitative microbial risk assessment
  • Vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science


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