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Food Hygiene And Safety Amid COVID-19

Food Hygiene And Safety Amid COVID-19

COVID 19 virus is a highly infectious organism infecting millions of people across the globe, and unfortunately, the number of cases is rising every day. This crisis has made people work from home or consult digitally all around the world. But the food industry is supplying food even during this pandemic. Keeping all workers in […]

COVID 19 virus is a highly infectious organism infecting millions of people across the globe, and unfortunately, the number of cases is rising every day. This crisis has made people work from home or consult digitally all around the world. But the food industry is supplying food even during this pandemic. Keeping all workers in the food production and supply chains healthy and safe is critical to surviving the current pandemic. The coronavirus mostly spreads from one person to another through direct transmission like respiratory droplets or indirectly through contaminated surfaces. Although, it’s always crucial to follow the 4 essential steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to prevent foodborne illness, the present circumstances demand a higher level of compliance with measures to protect food handlers from contracting and transmitting the virus.

 

For this reason, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has come up with
advisories and guidance notes to help manage food safety risks and prevent food
contamination.

Some important Do’s and Don’ts are:

Do’s

Requirements for the Personal Hygiene of Food Handlers

  1. Take a bath before starting work daily.
  2. Wear face mask and appropriately clean protective clothing, clean aprons, hand gloves, and
    headgear.
  3. Keep the hands clean and nails trimmed. Wash hands with soap and clean water (preferably
    hot) for 20-30 seconds.

    1. Before the start of work
    2. After handling of chemicals
    3. After handling incompatible food products (for example, raw versus cooked or ready- to eat) or contaminated materials;
    4. After breaks, after using toilet facilities.
    5. After coughing or sneezing or blowing their nose
    6. After using telephone/cell phones, handling notes and currency
    7. After smoking in separate designated areas etc. and using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60-70% alcohol at least) in between, whenever using soap and water is not possible or even when hands are not visibly dirty.
  4. Cover mouth/nose with tissue while coughing/sneezing which shall be followed by its disposal
    in a closed bin and hand washing and sanitization.

 

Precautions for Food Handlers

  1. Stay home when you feel sick/have any symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
  2. Make sure the face mask fits your face properly without leaving any gaps on mouth, nose and chin. And change the mask as per directions of its use.
  3. Cover wounds/ burns etc. with waterproof bandages.
  4. Keep food premises clean, well ventilated, well ventilated, and no water stagnation is allowed.
  5. Avoid crowding in a particular room/area and maintain a distance by creating physical barriers wherever possible. Floor markers or stickers are a good way to ensure safe distance.
  6. Carefully inspect fruits, vegetables, etc. for freshness and quality before purchasing.
  7. Procure packaged products from FSSAI licensed/registered vendors only.
  8. Clean cooking surface before starting work.
  9. Maintain temperature for selling chilled beverage & cold dessert, appropriate temperature shall be maintained.
  10. Use clean (potable) water for washing, food preparation, drinking, cleaning of utensils, etc. Store in clean containers in case of storage.
  11. Segregate raw/cooked and vegetarian/non-vegetarian foods at all times to avoid cross-contamination.
  12. Cook and reheat food at the right temperature for adequate time.
  13. Use equipment, containers, utensils, chopping boards, knives, cutlery, and serving spoons, of food-grade quality. Sanitize the equipment before use.
  14. Provide facility for hand wash to customers away from food preparation and service area.
  15. Dispose off waste regularly. Keep bins covered and clean them regularly.
  16. Avoid face-to-face meetings.
  17. Make sure that high touch points such as door knobs/elevator buttons/handrails/office machines/grocery cart handle/check-out counter etc. are frequently cleaned/sanitized.

 

Don’ts

  1. Visit the office/food facility or handle food when sick.
  2. Touch the outer surface of face mask while removing it.
  3. Touch your face, eyes, nose etc. after removing face cover/hand gloves/touching non-food contact surfaces/bins/doors/handles etc. before thoroughly washing/sanitizing them.
  4. Wear jewelry such as earring, bangles, rings, etc., watches, mobile phones while handling food, as they carry germs which may contaminate food.
  5. Share each other’s belongings/stationary/work tools etc.
  6. Prepare or sell food in an area prone to pollution such as effluent water, heavy smoke, hazardous waste, and more.

Responsibility of Food Business Owners

Food Business Owners must have a COVID-19 protocol for checking temperatures, personal
hygiene and sanitization, and social distancing measures.

  • The updated list of authorized testing centers and hospitals at the facility.
  • Masks, gloves, Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Record keeping book for everyone visiting a facility

 

Social Distancing Measures

Some of the social distancing measures for food business are:

  • Reduction in the number of employees in the production of food
  • Maintain a one-meter gap between individuals.
  • Make provisions for safe take away deliveries rather than dining in.

 

Cleaning and Sanitisation

Cleaning and Sanitisation should be as per Schedule 4,

  • Preparation
  • Cleaning
  • Sanitising following the below steps:
  • Air drying

Cleaning should be followed by disinfecting. Some of the suggested disinfectants are:

 

Type Use Frequency
Chlorine Perishable products
Food contact surfaces
Always for consumption of raw food
After use
Quaternary Methyl Butryic
Acid (QMBA)
Food contact surfaces After use
70% alcohol-based Hand sanitization As and when needed
disinfectant Common touch points and food contact surfaces Frequently or after each use

Food Packaging

According to recent studies, the coronavirus can stay on various surfaces for several hours. Proper hygiene must be followed by people dealing with food packaging.

Guidance for Consumers

To prevent indirect transmission which is less likely the following steps should be taken:

  • Use of single-use bags for groceries
  • Antiseptic sanitizers
  • Rinsing of fruits and vegetables before use
  • Proper cooking as the virus cannot survive high temperature

Protocol for COVID-19 positive Food Handlers

If any employee of food business, food distributors, and food delivery personnel is showing symptoms of COVID 19 (fever, cough, respiratory distress) immediately notify health authorities. The people who came in contact with COVID-19 confirmed people must be advised for home isolation for 14 days, and continuous monitoring of symptoms must be done.

Food business operators should prepare written guidance for their working staff on reporting symptoms of coronavirus and on exclusion from work policies. It will minimize the risk of infecting fellow workers and the community. This protocol by FSSAI is guidance worth following by the overall food industry involved in the noble service during this period.

Some general instructions:

  • Drivers, loaders, food delivery personnel should be trained about COVID-19 symptoms and its prevention.
  • Employees should themselves report about any symptoms of the disease, they should be regularly monitored and isolated/treated as required.
  • Ready to eat food shouldn’t be left open.
  • Visible notices for hand hygiene and physical distancing should be pasted.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

All food businesses, should adopt:

  1. Maintaining high levels of personal hygiene of all employees
  2. Social distancing at all times
  3. Cleaning and sanitation

In addition to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and GHP (Good Hygiene Practices) laid down in Schedule 4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulation, 2011.

 

References:

  1. COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for Food Businesses. Available at: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/covid-19-and-food-safety-guidance-for-food-businesses. Accessed on 23rd April, 2020
  2. Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/food-safety-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19. Accessed on 23rd April, 2020.
  3. FSSAI Comes Up Do’s, Dont’s For Chefs, Food Handlers. Available at: https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/media/FSSAI_News_Corona_Chef_28_03_2020.pdf. Accessed on 23rd April, 2020.
  4. Food Hygiene and Safety guidelines for Food Businesses during Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. Available at https://fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Guidance_Note_COVID_15_04_2020.pdf Accessed on 30 th April, 2020.

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