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A guide to safety precautions for those working in the food production industry

food-factories-905513_1920 With the current COVD-19 pandemic, it is vital to protect food workers from exposure to the virus and to strengthen food hygiene and sanitation practices. This guide suggests measures to help ensure that the integrity of the food chain is maintained and that adequate and safe food supplies are available for consumers.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted via food? According to the World Health Organisation, it is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the primary transmission route is through person-to-person contact and direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food.

What surfaces can COVD-19 survive on? If respiratory droplets are too heavy to be airborne, they land on objects and surfaces surrounding an infected person. It is, therefore, possible that someone may become infected by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Recent research evaluated the survival of the COVID-19 virus on different surfaces.

  • Plastic and stainless steel: Up to 72 hours
  • Copper: Up to four hours
  • Cardboard: Up to 24 hours

Please note, these are rough estimations which can vary according to temperature, humidity etc.

Practical steps that food industry employers can take:

  • Reinforce personal hygiene measures
  • Provide refresher training on food hygiene principles to eliminate or reduce the risk of food surfaces and food packaging materials becoming contaminated with the virus from food workers.
  • Promote and facilitate stringent hygiene and sanitation measures such as effective handwashing and sanitation at each stage of food processing, manufacture and marketing.

Good staff hygienic practices include:

● thorough hand washing – washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

● frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (not a replacement for handwashing).

● good respiratory hygiene (cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; use tissues which are disposed of and wash hands);

● frequent disinfection of work surfaces and commonly touched objects such as door handles;

  • Supply, personal protective equipment (PPE) where appropriate. Masks and gloves can be effective in reducing the spread of viruses and disease within the food industry, but only if used properly.In fact, hand washing is a better way to prevent infection than wearing disposable gloves. The COVID-19 virus can contaminate disposable gloves in the same way it gets onto workers’ hands. Removal of disposable gloves can lead to contamination of hands. Wearing disposable gloves can give a false sense of security and may result in staff not washing hands as frequently as required. Handwashing is a greater protective barrier to infection than wearing disposable gloves. Hands must be washed before and after changing gloves, and gloves should be changed following any tasks which involve touching potentially contaminated items such as door handles or bins. Anyone wearing gloves needs to avoid touching their mouth and eyes.
  • Physical distancing Current UK guidelines are to introduce physical distancing of at least two metres between each person. WHO guidance is to ensure at least one metre, particularly if staff are using PPE such as masks to prevent transmission of COVD-19. Drivers need to be aware of physical distancing when picking up or dropping off deliveries. As well as maintaining physical distance from other individuals, they need to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and to wear clean protective clothing. It is also vital to ensure that all transport containers are kept clean and frequently disinfected, foods must be protected from contamination, and must be separated from other goods that may cause contamination.
  • Advice to customers. Consumers should always be advised to wash fruit and vegetables with potable water before consumption or use in processing derivative food products. All customers and staff should strictly observe good personal hygiene practices at all times around open food areas.

Click here to find full guidance from the World Health Organisation

Click here for guidance for food businesses from the UK government here:

As always our team are here to help you. Please do keep in touch with us and we’ll work with you to support you at this difficult time. Email us at sales@cisafety.com or call 01726 74264.

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