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Food Safety Measures in Food Industry During Covid-19

Food safety measures are usually applied to to keep the virus out of the processing area. There are several significant measures needed including

  • Improving cleaning and washing procedures
  • Teaching staff about the virus and how to save their self and others
  • Hand disinfection when touching documents and other material
  • Hand washing and social distance
  • Strengthening protocols such as physical distance
  • Disinfecting surfaces and high contact points

Use of Gloves in Food Industry

Gloves worn by food professionals must be changed regularly, and hands must be cleaned between changing gloves and removing gloves.

Gloves must be changed after performing non-food work, such as opening / closing the door manually and emptying the bins.

Food workers should be aware that wearing gloves can cause bacteria to build up on the surface of the hands

So hand washing is very important, when gloves are removed to prevent subsequent contamination of food.

Food workers must not touch their mouths, noses and eyes while wearing gloves.

The disposable gloves can provide a false sense of safety and should not be worn in a food work as a substitute for hand washing.

The COVID-19 virus can contaminate disposable gloves in the same way it can reach workers hands and contact surfaces. Removing disposable gloves can contaminate hands.

False sense of security by wearing disposable gloves may result in staff not washing their hands as regularly as needed.

Hand washing is a significant protection against contamination from wearing disposable gloves.

Food companies should provide sufficient sanitary facilities to their staff and should ensure frequent hands washing by food handlers.

Soap and water are sufficient to wash their hands.

Hand Sanitizers can be used as an addition, but can’t replace hand washing

Use of Gloves to stop Virus
Use of Gloves to stop Virus

Use of Face Masks in Food Industry

WHO advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19 should be followed, According to the WHO, routine use of face masks is not required to protect against COVID19.

However, for some food processing jobs, such as

  • Working in a slaughterhouse
  • Handling cooked and ready-to-eat food
  • Wearing a face mask is a routine practice.

Face masks should be worn if a person is ill with symptoms of COVID-19 (especially cough) or looking after someone who is suspected or has symptoms of COVID-19.

However, a food worker who is ill or has symptoms of COVID-19, should not allowed to work in stores

Until he or she has no symptoms or is recommended by a doctor to work.

Use of Face Masks in Food Industry
Use of Face Masks in Food Industry

Safety Measures When a Worker Working in Food Business Has Symptoms of Covid-19

Such employee should wear mask and immediately leave the building. He should be sent immediately for medical checkup.

Tissues used during coughing and sneezing should be thrown in covered dustbin.

If he doesn’t have any tissues available, he should cough and sneeze into his elbow.

If he needs to go to the bath while sitting in waiting area for medical help, he should use a separate bath, if possible.

All areas which came into contact of such worker should be disinfected.

Alcohol based sanitizers/Chlorine based surface disinfectants should be used for disinfection.

In general, alcohol-based disinfectants (ethanol, propan-2-ol, propan-1-ol) have good results in decreasing of surrounded viruses like COVID-19 virus, in concentrations of 70-80%.

Common disinfectants are chlorine based (QUATS) and have anti viral properties.

All employees should clean their hands rigorously for 20 seconds with soap and water after any contact with person who is ill with symptoms of corona virus infection.

other workers will be informed immediately about such worker so that they can ensure preventive measures.

Moreover, all employees which were in the same working group, will be quarantined for 14 days and after that will be allowed for work after medical clearance.

Employees which were not in close contact with such worker, can continue their work as routine with safety measures.

Organizing employees into small work-groups will help to minimize disruption to work processes in the event of an employee reporting sick with symptoms of COVID-19

Shutdown of the workplace is not recommended.

Measures for safety against COVID-19
Measures for safety against COVID-19

Safety Measures in Case of Return to Work After Recovery From COVID-19

According to WHO if a COVID-19 patient has two negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart, he can be released from isolation

However, if testing is not possible, even then if he has not symptoms of disease after 14 days quarantine, then he can be released from isolation and is allowed for work.

Taking temperature of food workers is not recommended by WHO. Fever is only one of the symptoms of COVID-19 and absence of fever alone is not a reliable indicator of wellness

As part of a food work ‘medical fitness to work’ SOPs, employees should inform to administration if they are ill with COVID-19 symptoms, especially fever.  

Safety measures after COVID-19 recovery
Safety measures after COVID-19 recovery

Important Precautions to Take by Food Workers

Physical distancing, good personal hygiene, frequent hand washing, and taking general food hygiene measures are the most important precautions food workers should adopt.

Physical distancing is very important to control the spreading of coronavirus. This is attained by keeping distance from infected persons.

Frequent hands washing with detergent and water and use of hand sanitizers also control the virus transmission.

All food businesses should ensure the physical distancing and hand washing.

Proper food safety practices at this time will decrease the food contamination with virus.

Social Distance in Food Business

There should be minimum 1 meter (3 feet) distance in employees. Following are some guidelines to implement social distance in food business:

  • Keep workstations on one side of process line to prevent face to face contact,
  • Provide clean uniforms, PPE, Face masks, hair nets and disposable gloves to employees.
  • space out workstations, which may need slow down the production,
  • reduce the employees in a shift,
  • Make small working groups in shifts.
Social distancing
Social distancing

Food Safety Measures in Food Selling Places

Good hygiene practices are important around open food selling environment.

The fruits and vegetables should washed with potable water before use.

Following are some control measures to prevent the COVID-19 transmission in food selling areas:

  • All utensils should properly wash and food contact surfaces should be properly sanitized, gloves must be changed;   
  • Ensure frequent and proper hand washing of workers;
  • Counters, utensils and containers should be sanitized;
  • Ensure hand sanitizer availability for customers at entry and exit;
  • Food products should not displaced without wrap.
  • Food products should keep in cellophane, plastic or paper packaging in self service displays.
  • Ready to eat salads should placed in plexiglass display cabinets and utensils should be frequently sanitized;
Follow food safety measures to stop virus
Follow food safety measures to stop virus

Safety measures for Trolleys and Carts

Trolleys and carts handles should be sanitized with alcohol based sanitizers or chlorine based disinfectants.

Ensure availability of hand sanitizer, tissue papers and dustbins at trolleys parking area.

Surface Sanitizer/Disinfectant

Alcohol based hand sanitizers with 70-80% alcohol concentrations with one minute exposure time are successful in controlling COVID-19.

Chlorine-based disinfectants (sodium hypochlorite) are successful for surface disinfection.

Surface Sanitizer/Disinfectant for food safety
Surface Sanitizer/Disinfectant for food safety

COVID-19 Transmission From Human to Food Animals

As per WHO, Till now there are not sufficient evidences of COVID-19 transmission from food animals to humans or from humans to food animals.

COVID-19 Survivability

Coronavirus survives inside the human body.

COVID-19 can survive up to three hours in air, up to twenty four hours on copper and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Hands and gloves are main source of virus transmission that’s why frequent hand washing and gloves changing is recommended.

Safety Measures in Food Transportation

Workers involved in food delivery should be free from COVID-19; coughing/sneezing precautions should be adopted in food transport.

Frequent hand washing and proper social distancing should be ensured.

Safety Measures for Water

As per WHO till now there is no evidence that water used in food processing is source of COVID-19 transmission.

Food Business Area Cleaning & Disinfection in COVID-19

The general SOPs of food safety and hygiene should be followed. Frequently washing with detergent and after that disinfection is required.

All surfaces and objects such as toilets, door handles, and telephones should be disinfected.

Use alcohol based sanitizers having 70-80% alcohol concentration for cleaning purpose.

All staff should wash hands for 20 seconds after contact with any objective. Chlorine based disinfectants (QUATS) are also helpful in controlling COVID-19 transmission.

Cleaning staff should wear PPE, gloves and face mask during work. The protective clothes should be frequently washed at 60 C or above. 

Cleaning & Disinfection in COVID-19

Conclusion

Food business can be kept safe from virus contamination by

  • Upgrading of cleaning and sanitation measures
  • Disinfecting surfaces and high-touch points
  • Educating staff on the virus and how to protect themselves and others
  • Reinforcing protocols such as physical distancing
  • Hand washing
  • Sanitizing hands when handing out documents and other material

Hand washing is better than wearing gloves by food handlers. WHO advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19 should be followed
When an employee working in a food business becomes ill with COVID-19, he should be sent out of the food business area immediately and proper disinfection of all premises and equipment should be done with Alcohol based sanitizers and chlorine based disinfectants.

Written by Mubeen Arshad Awan Head of Quality Assurance, Yum Group (Chashni Sweets, English Tea House Bakery, Yum Chinese & Thai Restaurants, Spice Bazaar Restaurants)

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