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Food  Safety Practices – During Pandemic

Food safety (or food hygiene) is used as a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illness. Food safety needs to be maintained farm to fork. That means food safety should start right after the food is harvested, till it reaches the plate of the consumer and during the whole process from farm to fork the best quality of the food needs to be maintained.

As Covid 19 pandemic persists around the globe, public health experts continue to monitor ways in which the virus may be spreading. The most up-to-date scientific evidence indicates that SARS-CoV-2, which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not transmissible via food but is transmissible between people who are in close contact with each other.

When a person who has covid-19 coughs, sneezes, speaks, or breathes, he or she emits fluid particles that carry the virus. These infected droplets and aerosols can land on frequently touched surfaces and objects or be directly inhaled by others standing nearby.

man wearing a face mask delivering pizza
Photo by Norma Mortenson on Pexels.com

So it is possible that food is not the direct medium of transmission but unhygienic food handling and during the preparation and the delivery, if the food or the packaging comes in direct contact with an COVID Positive person (when people infected with the virus expel droplets while coughing or sneezing, and more recent findings suggest that the virus may also be transmitted), then there could be chance of cross-contamination and the person who is receiving may get contaminated with Covid virus.

The nation’s food supply is thus susceptible to disruption not by food contaminated with Covid virus but by the transmission of the virus among workers in locations and facilities where food is produced, processed, packaged, and sold.

The best way to avoid the spread among workers is to have clear protocols (standard operating procedures) in place for each facility to minimize possible contamination. These procedures include training all workers on how the covid-19 virus is spread, social distancing, and good hygiene protocols.

FDA is sharing information about best practices to operate retail food stores, restaurants, and associated pick-up and delivery services during the covid-19 pandemic to safeguard workers and consumers.

Source: Food and Drug Administration

This addresses key considerations for how foods offered at retail can be safely handled and delivered to the public, as well as key best practices for employee health, cleaning and sanitizing, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Managing the employee health is one of the most important tasks. Instruct employees with symptoms associated with COVID-19 to report them to their supervisors. Instruct sick employees to stay home and to follow the CDC’s. If an employee is sick at work, send them home immediately. Clean and disinfect surfaces in their workspace.

Inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, while maintaining confidentiality. Pre-screening of employees is important, for example, take temperature and assess symptoms prior to starting work and regularly self monitor. Wearing mask and covering the face and sanitizing hands while in contact with food is important.

  • Emphasize effective hand  hygiene including washing hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and avoid working with unwrapped or exposed foods. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Use gloves to avoid direct bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. Frequently disinfect surfaces repeatedly touched by employees or customers such as door knobs, equipment handles, check-out counters, and grocery cart handles, etc.
  • Managing food pick-up and delivery is another important aspect. Observe established food safety practices for time/temp control, preventing cross contamination, cleaning hands, no sick workers, and storage of food, etc. Establish designated pick-up zones for customers to help maintain social distancing.
  • Practice social distancing when delivering food, e.g., offering “no touch” deliveries and sending text alerts or calling when deliveries have arrived.
  • Keep foods separated to avoid cross contamination, for example, keeping raw foods separated from cooked and ready-to eat foods.
  • Ensure that any wrapping and packaging used for food transport is done so that contamination of the food is prevented.
  • Not only in the food industry but household food safety is also necessary to keep your family healthy and away from the pandemic.
  • Maintain safe distance while purchasing food and Wash all the procured food immediately after reaching home with appropriate cleaner.
  • Cook at an appropriate temperature to kill the microbes that can possibly be present in the raw food.
  • Keep the counter clean and hygienic. Try not to use sanitizer during cooking. As it contains alcohol and can easily catch fire. When you are at home use soap to wash your hands.
  • Finally, To keep your family healthy and safe from pandemic try to follow SMART.
Source: Harvard University

Reference:

Food and Drug Administration. (official site)

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. (official site).

Maragoni-Santos, C., Serrano Pinheiro de Souza, T., Matheus, J., de Brito Nogueira, T. B., Xavier-Santos, D., Miyahira, R. F., Costa Antunes, A. E., & Fai, A. (2021). COVID-19 pandemic sheds light on the importance of food safety practices: risks, global recommendations, and perspectives. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 1–13. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2021.1887078

Djekic, I., Nikolić, A., Uzunović, M., Marijke, A., Liu, A., Han, J., Brnčić, M., Knežević, N., Papademas, P., Lemoniati, K., Witte, F., Terjung, N., Papageorgiou, M., Zinoviadou, K. G., Dalle Zotte, A., Pellattiero, E., Sołowiej, B. G., Guiné, R., Correia, P., Sirbu, A., … Tomasevic, I. (2021). Covid-19 pandemic effects on food safety – Multi-country survey study. Food control, 122, 107800. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2020.107800 Harvard University.

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