Ajinomoto Foods North America’s Response to COVID-19
As a food producer, Ajinomoto Foods North America (AFNA) is classified as an essential industry, and we are proud to be doing the vitally important work of delivering food to help feed millions of Americans.
Protecting our employees’ well-being is the first step to ensuring our ability to contribute to a healthy food supply. That’s why the safety of our employees and customers is always of the utmost importance. As an essential business, we are also taking additional steps to safeguard and properly take care of our employees.
Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more broadly available, AFNA wants to be an important resource for our employees to learn and make decisions about getting the vaccine. While we are not mandating vaccinations of employees, we believe based on current information and guidance, vaccines are a safe, effective way for us to protect our teammates, families and communities and we encourage our employees to get vaccinated. We understand getting vaccinated is a personal, medical decision. While it is certainly a personal decision, getting the COVD-19 vaccine provides an added layer of protection that will make it possible for us to continue our essential operations while keeping our employees safe.
As the counties we operate in have begun to move into Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, meaning essential food and agriculture workers are becoming eligible, we are working to assist all of our employees wishing to be vaccinated access to the vaccine. Because the different states we operate in are taking phased approaches to vaccine distribution, we are doing what we can to support our team and make the process as convenient as possible by partnering with local health departments and third-party organizations to provide access.
The Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) we follow to ensure the safety and quality of our products have also helped a great deal with helping to protect our employees from the spread of COVID-19 on an ongoing basis. Among these, mandated and frequent handwashing, and regularly scheduled thorough cleaning of our facility have been very effective. We have also implemented the additional following steps to do our part to help curtail the spread of the virus:
- Establishing social distancing protocols throughout all areas of our facilities, including offices, break rooms and restrooms, as well as on the production lines.
- Providing masks to all employees and requiring face coverings while inside our facilities.
- Limiting the size of working groups to help keep our manufacturing employees safe when on-site. This minimizes their contact with others and improves traceability in the event an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
- Restricting visitors to only critically essential business activities, and implementing work-from-home for employees whose work does not require them to be on-site.
- Increased cleaning and sanitization programs in common areas of our facilities, such as break rooms and restrooms.
- Reminding our employees continuously of the importance of staying home if they feel ill.
- Asking employees to notify us immediately if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 or suspect they have been exposed.
- Every employee and visitor to our factories must go through a comprehensive symptom screening and temperature check.
We have also implemented the following policies to support our employees:
- Additional paid leave up to 10 days or up to 80 hours of COVID-19 Care Paid Time (CCPT) during the pandemic. This can replace regular wages lost due to COVID-19-related issues.
- Copays for utilizing Telemedicine have been waived.
- Cost of living/merit increases were made effective
- Short-Term Disability premiums are paid 100% by AFNA for all employees. The eligibility period was shortened from 14 to 7 days so it can be accessed sooner if needed.
- Cover the full cost of COVID-19 testing submitted through the employee insurance plan.
- 401K hardship withdrawal and loan payback rules have been relaxed so employees can have easier access to those funds as needed.
Supporting Our Customers and Consumers
We understand that during this extraordinary time, providing for the essential needs of our customers is as vital as ever. We know consumers count on us both to keep products on the shelves of stores, and we are working diligently to meet our customer’s needs and to protect an uninterrupted food supply to consumers.
We work with our customers daily to review open orders and make every effort to meet their demand with the goal of stocking every consumer’s freezer with high-quality frozen foods.
We know this situation is evolving rapidly, and we are committed to supporting our valued partner.