Here is a quick overview of some of the Coronavirus and food safety issues affecting food businesses that remain open during the Coronavirus crisis.
Supply & Use of Cleaning Products
The supply of cleaning products such as liquid hand-wash and chemical sanitisers has, in some instances, been affected by a high level of demand from businesses and consumers. Some food business operators who have enjoyed contracts for years with renound international providers have reported that they have had their supplies interupted, or orders unfulfilled, as demand has grown.
When it comes to cleaning chemicals food business operators come in three broad types, including:
1. Those who are supplied under contract with larger supply companies;
2. Companies who buy regularly from wholesalers; and
3. Those who buy smaller amounts locally (e.g. from supermarkets) on an ad hoc basis.
All are affected by a greater or lesser extent by the Coronavirus pandemic. However, it has to be said that, operators appear to be doing a good job of sourcing alternative supplies and improvising.
It is important that, where food businesses remain operational, they ensure that they have a reasonable supply of:
- Cleaning materials
- Hand soap
Hot water is, of course, essential; especially for washing hands. The need for sanitising hand rubs is less important as the emphasis remains with effective and regular hand-washing; using liquid hand soap and running water.
Do not forget to regularly sanitise all hand-contact surfaces and any equipment that customers come into contact with.
Social Distancing & Isolation for Coronavirus
Those businesses that remain open to the general public should follow advice on social distancing, hand washing and sanitising. All eating areas should be disinfected thoroughly between uses. Additional precautions will need to be taken to protect staff and delivery workers.
Workers who are experiencing symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should self-isolate and must not work in food establishments. Similar rules will apply to workers who live with contacts or family members who are suffering from the symptoms of Covid-19.
Food Shelf-life and Menu Changes
Another coronavirus and food safety concern that has been raised relates to the shelf-life of food. Throughput and footfall in some food businesses has decreased dramatically and so it is important that food orders and supplies reflect this. Businesses should not be tempted to extend the shelf-life of food beyond accepted limits. A reduced menu is a good way of tackling fluctuations in demand (along with other practices such as freezing and portioning after rapid cooling).
If certain food items become difficult to stock remember that replacement brands may contain different allergenic ingredients; always ensure that you review allergen information carefully.
Action by Retailers
Retailers can also take the following steps:
- Reducing customer numbers inside
- Apply 1-out/1-in rules
- A ban on groups
- Provision of distance between check-out and customers
- Enforce social distancing rules for customers
- Enforce rules for queues
- Provide barriers and line directions
- Provide prominent signage
- Implement rigorous disinfection procedures
- provide PPE for staff
Follow Local & Government Advice
Whatever you do, you must follow the advice of your local and central authorities who will be co-ordinating strategically in order to act against the spread of Covid-19.