The Importance of Food Safety During a Coronavirus Outbreak
COVID-19 is something which is going to be a real challenge for a lot of people to try and deal with. Businesses across the world are struggling to keep up with the demands of an increasingly online world. The restaurant industry in particular is struggling because everyone is shut in and can’t come out.
So this means that many people and places have made the decision to switch to a takeaway style location. If you’re someone who has done this, then we’d like to talk a little bit about the importance of food safety during this period.
Food Safety – Your Number One Concern
In these challenging times, it is essential for the food sector to prioritise the safety of their staff as a critical resource and to ensure all of their employees are following government guidance on infection prevention and control measures against COVID-19. Whilst there is currently no evidence that food is a source of the virus, it is more important than ever for food businesses to implement effective Food Safety Management Systems
This is a serious pandemic which is claiming the lives of many people. It is easy to see why so many are getting upset, bothered, and generally worked up by everything that’s going on. COVID-19 can be incredibly dangerous to deal with and so people need to be responsible about how they do things.
So for your average takeaway or venue that has become a takeaway, there has never been a greater need to try and fix the issues which are being encountered. That means that you’re going to want to think about potentially bringing in new measures to keep yourself, staff and customers safe when you are preparing meals to deliver to them.
The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone. You need to minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals. This advice applies to both inside the food business and in the external public areas where customers may need to queue. People should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds and more frequently than normal.
The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances. This may be best evaluated by the store manager, however a few general indicators may be relevant to the majority of retail outlets:
- use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the shop if they have symptoms
- regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
- use floor markings inside the commercial spaces to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as serving counters and tills
- use vertical signage to direct customers into lanes if feasible to facilitate movement within the premises while maintaining 2 metre distance
- make regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly
- place plexiglass barriers at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers
- encourage the use of contactless payments where possible, without disadvantaging older or vulnerable customers
- provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser
Maintaining social distancing in specific food business settings
Food processing plants
Food safety practices in food processing plants should continue to be delivered to the highest hygiene standards including the use of some personal protective equipment and frequent hand washing.
All employers are expected to follow social distancing guidance, including food businesses, as far as is reasonably possible. Where the production environment makes it difficult to do so, employers should consider what measures may be put in place to protect employees. Once staff have left the food processing areas and removed protective clothing, social distancing and further hand washing guidance should be adhered to.
Supermarkets need to avoid crowding and create adequate spacing between individuals.
Effective measures to support this will vary by store and location but could include:
- monitoring the number of customers within store and limiting access to avoid congestion
- implementing queue management systems to limit crowds gathering at entrances and maintain the 2 metres distance
- reminding customers to only buy what they need
Public Health England (PHE) supports measures to allow safe privileged access to elderly and essential workers such as NHS and Social Care staff.
Staff canteens and rest areas
It is very unlikely that coronavirus is transmitted through food. Workplace canteens may remain open where there are no practical alternatives for staff to obtain food.
- as far as reasonably possible, a distance of 2 metres should be maintained between users
- staff can continue to use rest areas if they apply the same social distancing
- notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be placed visibly in these areas
- if possible, increase the number of hand washing stations available
Takeaways and restaurants offering a pick-up service
For these services:
- no orders should be taken in person on the premises - this should be communicated to customers by appropriate means such as signage
- businesses should therefore only take orders online or by telephone
- customers could have staggered collection times - customers should be discouraged from entering the premises until their order is ready
- customers arriving without having already placed an order should be encouraged to leave the premises to place their order by telephone or online and to return at a designated time for collection
- customers whose orders are ready should enter one at a time to collect orders and make payments
- businesses should discourage crowding outside the premises. Where possible, use queue management systems to maintain the 2 metres separation
Outdoor food markets and farmers markets
The main concern with outdoor food markets is to avoid crowds gathering. Local Authorities may have decided to close such markets as part of actions taken to maintain social distancing.
Where markets are still in operation, we encourage food market operators to consider how they can safely sell their products without encouraging crowds and ensure hygiene measures are in place. This can be done by:
- taking orders online or by telephone in advance and pre-packing orders to limit face-to-face time in the market
- considering delivery services if possible
New Policies, New Rules
It’s a pretty good idea to think about introducing some new policies to try and provide the best possible services to people. There are many which are easy to adopt, and with formal training, it becomes even more of a simple task.
Just practising basic hygiene can really help you to make a difference. You need to be careful when it comes to what you accept into the building too. You need to be incredibly meticulous about how you dispose of things, how you clean surfaces, and the way that you keep your kitchen tidy.
Always wear protective equipment, always try and look after yourself and other people, if someone is showing even the tiniest of symptoms, they need to be out of the kitchen and sent home as quickly as possible.
In conclusion, the threat of coronavirus has changed the way that everything works. It’s now so important that people try and be as sensible as they can about how they do things, because they need to look after themselves and other people for the future. If you do this, then there is no doubt that you’ll be able to protect your customers, and your staff from the threat of COVID-19. It’s definitely a challenge, and something which we all have to try and face, but at the same time, it’s important to be sensible about how you’re doing things. Be safe, be sensible, and above all, be vigilant.
What about Cooking from Home?
If you’re not in the food business but want to know about health and hygiene for you home kitchen, why not take your Level 2 Food Hygiene Course and Exam.
Right now during the COVD19 crisis, you can purchase Level 2 for just £15+vat.
Now is the time to train in hygiene for you and your business. Contact The National Hospitality Academy and check out our courses now.