AHPA: Supplement, Herbal, Cannabis Operations as Essential Businesses

pills and cannabis leaf on green background

Silver Spring, MD—The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has provided an update regarding what qualifies as “essential business” and “critical infrastructure” as federal, state, and local governments take increased action to require social distancing as a protective measure to minimize community spread of COVID-19.

The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, which was issued by the White House on March 16, 2020, “went further than exempting such critical businesses, stating that those who work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ‘have a special responsibility’ to maintain normal work schedules,” AHPA explained, adding, “The guidelines identify healthcare services and the pharmaceutical and food supply as examples of such critical infrastructure industries.”

In addition, AHPA said the Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within DHS identifies essential critical infrastructure workers and sectors in several categories. This includes food and agriculture–and, as AHPA notes, dietary supplements qualify as ‘food’ under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The following areas are most relevant to the majority of AHPA’s members:

  • Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sells food and beverage products;
  • Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees…;
  • Employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution, including warehouse workers…;
  • Workers in food testing labs in private industries and in institutions of higher education; and
  • Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products.

AHPA explained that CISA’s guidance is advisory in nature and not a federal directive. “Companies and workers should therefore check state and local recommendations and directives in making status determinations for operations that qualify as essential critical infrastructure under this federal guidance,” AHPA advised, adding that a review of several state and local directives suggests that state and local governments are generally aligning with or adopting CISA’s guidance, though there are exceptions. AHPA also noted that some states have designated “[w]orkers supporting cannabis retail and dietary supplement retail” as essential.

Related: AHPA Shares COVID-19 Information & Resources
Trade Associations to Governors: Supplements Qualify as Essential
NPA: Natural Products Industry Can Assist with Production, Distribution of Medical Supplies

AHPA also stressed: “AHPA strongly recommends that companies that determine their status as an essential business and so maintain operations take appropriate measures to protect employees. Relevant guidance is available at the websites of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).” More information and guidance on how companies in the food and supplement industry can also be found AHPA COVID-19 Information & Resources Web Center, and AHPA is hosting a COVID-19 webinar on Thursday March 26, 2020, at 1:00-3:00 pm EDT to address numerous issues that members have identified as relevant to their operations and business decisions during this public health crisis. Click here to register.

Related: COVID-19 Update: Industry Works to Keep Stores Well-Stocked & Meet Consumer Needs