According to the experts, it is highly unlikely that you can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging. There have been no known cases of the virus being transferred from food or food packaging to a person.
All food business operators are urged to follow the Food Standard Agency’s guidance when it comes to good hygiene before, during, and after food preparation. Critical Control Point and Hazard Analysis should also be reviewed.
Proper Food Hygiene
While good hygiene is extremely important, it isn’t enough to just wash your hands more than normal. All objects and surfaces that are regularly used and touched should be frequently cleaned and disinfected. Businesses that handle food should check out the “safer food, better business” guidance of the Food Standards Agency. This will further explain food hygiene standards and what can be expected.
Businesses must remind their customers of the importance of good hygiene during the pandemic. One way to do so is by posting leaflets and signs on the outside of the building before customers come in. Reminding everyone of the importance of public safety during this time can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If possible, businesses that sell food should supply disinfectant hand wipes in their entrances for customers to use. They may also offer additional stations around the business.
**Restaurants Have Since Closed as Per Government Lockdown
WHO, the World Health Organisation, has stated that a person infected with COVID-19 is unlikely to contaminate commercial goods from touching them. When a package that has been touched by a person with COVID-19 is moved and exposed to different temperatures and conditions, the risk of the virus transmitting to a person is also quite low.
Of course, food handlers should still take care to ensure that all food packaging is handled with care and safety. Any food handler who is sick should not handle food or be around food preparation areas. Remaining staff will need to follow all safety precautions and existing risk assessments.
Cleaning and Waste Disposal
Businesses who want to reduce the spread of COVID-19 should follow the guidance set forth by the government concerning cleaning and waste removal.
What should you do if an employee becomes sick?
Any employee who displays symptoms of the coronavirus should be sent home immediately. These symptoms include a high temperature and a new, continuous cough. These employees should stay at home until a doctor clears them to come back to work. If you or one of your employees are currently experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19, visit NHS 111 online. If you do not have internet access, you can call 111. For an emergency, contact 999. Call if you or an employee is seriously ill or injured or are having trouble breathing. Experts ask that you do not visit an urgent care centre, hospital, pharmacy, or general practitioner if you are dealing with an emergency.
Staff members who have come into contact with someone who has become unwell with a high temperature or new, continuous cough should stay home and quarantine themselves until a doctor clears them for work.
The situation with COVID-19 is changing on a day-to-day basis. Make sure you monitor the government response to the virus for further updates. Adapt and change as much as needed. It’s better to be too cautious than not enough.
Every employer wants to do their part in preventing the transmission of COVID-19. Understanding the guidance of The Food Standards Agency is important during this crisis.
Social Distancing and What it Means
You can’t turn on the news without hearing the new phrase-social distancing. This rule now applies to everyone in the UK and around the world. Everyone must maintain a distance of at least 2 metres between each other to minimise the spread of COVID-19. This rule applies to everyone, everywhere. In places where customers might need to queue, such as inside of a restaurant or food business, this rule should be strictly enforced.
The store managers will have to come up with their own practical solutions on social distancing. However, the following guidelines are general ones that can be followed by all businesses:
- Post signs asking customers not to come in if they are displaying the symptoms of COVID-19
- Post signs that outline the symptoms of COVID-19
- Only allow a certain number of people in the store at a time to avoid overcrowding
- Mark off spaces on the floor to help with social distancing. This can be done with brightly coloured masking tape and should be implemented in crowded areas, such as at tills and service areas
- Post signs near tills and services areas asking each customer to stay on their designated spot, which should be 2 metres away from one another
- Regularly use the loudspeaker to remind customers how to follow social distancing rules when they are in public
- If possible, place Plexiglas barriers in front of tills and counters to add another layer of protection between workers and customers
- Provide additional sanitising stations around the store
- For more information concerning social distancing and COVID-19, visit GOV.UK
How to Maintain Social Distancing in Food Business Settings
Food Processing Plants
Employees should follow the social distancing rules as much as possible while working together in a food processing plant. While working in a production environment can make this a difficult rule to follow, employers should do what they can to protect their employees. For example, employers should make sure that every employee who leaves the food processing area removes their protective equipment, washes their hands, and practices social distancing.
Managers of supermarkets will need to limit the number of customers who come into the store at once to avoid crowding. One way to do so is to monitor the number of people who come into the store at once. Once a certain limit has been reached, no other customers should be allowed in until another leaves the premises.
Managers and employees should implement queue management systems</a that will limit crowds who have gathered at the entrance. All customers should stand 2 metres apart.
Place limits on the amount of supplies one person can buy at a time.
Public Health England is in full support of shops that allow safe privileged access to essential workers and the elderly.
Supermarkets can encourage social distancing by providing grocery delivery services for customers who choose not to leave their homes.
Rest Areas and Staff Canteens
While it is highly unlikely that coronavirus can be transmitted through food, proper caution should be taken in areas where employees take breaks and eat lunch. Employees should:
- Stay at least 2 metres away from each other
- Continue to wash their hands with soap and water
- Cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough
Employers should also post additional signs promoting social distancing and proper hand washing techniques. If possible, additional hand washing stations should be made available where employees gather to rest and eat.
Restaurants Offering Pick-Up Services
For restaurants offering pick-up services, these conditions should be put into place during the pandemic:
- Orders should be taken by phone or website only-This can be communicated to potential customers by signs on the front of the building and on doors and marquees
- Orders should be staggered to keep customers from crowding the area- Customers should only come into the building when their order is ready
- All customers should stand 2 metres apart
- Customers should only enter the building one at a time
Many restaurant owners are offering to bring food directly out to the customer to minimise the number of people in the building
Farmer’s Markets or Outdoor Food Markets
The main concern for farmer’s markets or any other food market that operates outdoors is to keep crowds from gathering. Some markets may even be closed down at this time to maintain social distancing.
Markets that are still permitted to operate should carefully consider how they can sell their products safely. This can be done by:
- Allowing customers to place orders online or on the phone
- Offering pre-packed orders to discourage customers from touching the goods for sale
- Offering delivery if possible
It’s everyone’s responsibility to try and “flatten the curve”. By following these guidelines, all food businesses can do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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