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It is time to progress from a reactive mindset to a proactive one. We have been living in a place of fear, where we as humankind are reacting to the new circumstances doing our best to minimize human loss and infection. It is time to take what we already know (science based) and develop the best prevention strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 amongst essential food industry workers not only as consequence of their work activities, but also in their personal lives.

 

As COVID 19 has wrought havoc around the world, these past few months have seen more upheaval than many of us could have imagined. The food industry community spans continents, cultures, and sectors, but a shockwave like this reminds us just how intimately connected everyone really is.

As the entire world braces for even more devastating impacts from COVID-19, images of empty grocery store shelves have laid bare the reality that—when modern society comes to a screeching halt—food remains essential. Even amidst the throes of the current crisis, there is no question that transforming our food system will be central to mitigating the risk of future pandemics.  Food Safety Professionals are central to that equation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted consumers and businesses around the world. The food industry is playing a critical role in continuing to provide a safe food supply to consumers while mitigating risk of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2

Though social distancing measures have helped to flatten the curve in the spread of COVID-19, we are not “out of the woods” yet. With food companies having faced closures due to outbreaks at their facilities, the supply chain will be dealing with the effects of COVID-19 long after the height of the pandemic. As health experts warn of a possible rebound in the fall, now is the time to assess what the food industry has learned from this “new normal” and how companies can be prepared to face the challenges of another outbreak.

It is time to progress from a reactive mindset to a proactive one. We have been living in a place of fear, where we as humankind are reacting to the new circumstances doing our best to minimize human loss and infection. It is time to take what we already know (science based) and develop the best prevention strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 amongst essential food industry workers not only as consequence of their work activities, but also in their personal lives.

The food industry, and particularly their leaders, must take care of their workers by providing them the information, personnel protective equipment and training they need to remain safe (also outside their working facilities).

As hundreds of thousands of human lives were lost so far it will always be difficult to look back and feel we were successful. Success unfortunately in this case cannot be measured as no deaths but as doing all that is in our power (and with what we  collectively know and learn in real time) to reduce the spread of the virus.

Now available COVID-19 Multi-lingual resources for FREE

English | Portuguese | Chinese | Spanish | French | Italian | Turkish | Arabic | Bengali | Urdu

 

The Key Principles of GMPs, Sanitation and Food Industry Personnel Are The BackBone of Your COVID-19 Efforts

 

While key attention has been placed on mitigation strategies emphasizing hand washing, personal hygiene and safe distancing, the food industry is focusing on reinforcing GMPs, enhanced sanitation and compliance with food safety regulations to meet the challenge of controlling the threat of the virus and protect Food Industry Personnel.

These are some aspects food safety professionals should take in consideration when planning how to manage COVID-19:

  • Food industry personnel do not have the opportunity to work from home and are required to continue to work in their usual workplaces
  • Keeping all workers in the food production and supply chains healthy and safe is critical to surviving the current pandemic
  • There is now an urgent requirement for the industry to ensure compliance with measures to protect food workers from contracting COVID-19, to prevent exposure to or transmission of the virus, and to strengthen food hygiene and sanitation practices
  • There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has spread through food or food packaging.
  • COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the primary transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • There is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging
  • The spread pattern of COVID-19 does not fit models of foodborne outbreaks, which are defined as two or more people getting sick from the same contaminated food or drink.

The spread pattern of COVID-19 does not fit models of foodborne outbreaks, which are defined as two or more people getting sick from the same contaminated food or drink.

Join 2020’s World Food Safety Day full-day event for FREE!
Watch 6 interviews with Top professionals and 5 workshops

 

Safe Food Practices

 

Aiming to provide a basic tool that food safety professionals can have in hand, and even print out, we developed an infographic displaying the principle practices that should be maintained at all times in this new normal era (look for the links to the Multi-Lingual COVID-19 ACTIVE Prevention GuideNoteswebpage).

 

Here is a list of best practices:

 

  • Food industry should have a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) based on HACCP principles in place to manage food safety risks and prevent food contamination.
  • It is imperative for the food industry to reinforce personal hygiene measures and provide refresher training on food hygiene principles.
    • Ensure all employees are being screened for temperatures on arrival each day
    • Disinfections available on entrance to facility e.g. 70% alcohol gels
    • Washing hands properly with soap and water for at least a minimum period of 20s.
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, can be effective in reducing the spread of viruses and disease within the food industry
    • COVID-19 is unusual from other coronavirus in that it has an outer fatty membrane to protect the capsid and virion. Soap is great at breaking down that fatty membrane, the same way detergent does with grease. Once that fatty membrane is destroyed, it kills the virion
    • Food industry is strongly advised to introduce physical distancing and stringent hygiene and sanitation measures and promote frequent and effective handwashing and sanitation at each stage of food processing and manufacture.
    • These measures will protect staff from spreading COVID-19 among workers, maintain a healthy workforce, and detect and exclude infected food handlers and their immediate contacts from the workplace.

     •   Prevent all visitors from coming to the site during the pandemic COVID-19 crisis.

 

Covid 19 Generates New Food Industry Staff Positions

 

Food industry is establishing new roles and responsibilities while adapting to the COVID-19 Prevention landscape such as:

  • Safety Person In Charge (SPIC) is the point person on all COVID-19 protections.
  • Covid-19 Enforcer is the one person (per shift) empowered to police all aspects of COVID-19 Prevention: verification that co-workers are washing hands properly and frequently, and high touch surfaces be sanitized a minimum of once per hour (such as doorknobs, equipment handles, and high traffic areas like bathrooms, change rooms, breakrooms, etc.).
  • Temperature Takers who are trained and follow the organization’s Wellness Check guidelines.

It is becoming very common in many organizations that some of these tasks are being implemented and added to food safety professionals’ “responsibilities plate”

 

Personnel Cleanliness and Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE)

 

‘Personnel involved in food handling shall maintain high degree of cleanliness. When entering food handling-processing area(s) (high and low risk processing areas)  wear work PPE clothing, facemask coverings (single use disposable or approved disinfected-sanitized non-medical facemasks), respirators (*if, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, personnel were required to wear a respirator, disposable facemask,  goggles or face-shields on the job, based on a workplace hazard assessment you should continue to do so), hair nets, facial hair nets/beard snoods and, hand gloves and proper footwear to ensure that head hair, facial hair (beards, moustaches, sideburns, etc.), perspiration, etc. do not contaminate the product, food contact surfaces, and packaging materials.  Change facemasks every 4 hours, immediately after facemask becomes damp, and immediately after sneezing or coughing in facemask.  All personnel who change facemasks must properly wash and dry their hands thoroughly before placing new facemasks on.

All workers shall properly wash their hands with hand soap and potable water, followed by proper drying at key points: •before touching and wearing PPE facemasks, face coverings, respirators and eyewear, beard snoods, •before starting work & before beginning food preparation (when switching from between working with raw foods and ready to eat foods, etc.); •after touching and removing PPE facemasks, face coverings, respirators and eyewear, beard snoods, •after handling chemicals, •after handling raw materials or finished product, •after handling dirty equipment, trash receptacles, dishes-utensils, •after every break, •after returning from storage, •after coughing or blowing nose or sneezing, •after touching the face or hair and after using toilet facilities and •after doing anything that could contaminate the hands, including handling money.

Where gloves are used for product contact, they shall be single use, clean and free from tears.  Disposable hand gloves are used to avoid cross contamination: •Change gloves when switching tasks (when switching from between working with raw foods and ready to eat foods, etc.), •change gloves every 4 hours, •change gloves when dirty or torn. It is important to note that staff who handle raw must not work in ready to eat food areas and must not handle food under processing and packed food to prevent cross contamination issues unless they have fully changed their uniform, PPE, and washed their hands thoroughly. All personnel who change gloves must properly wash and dry their hands thoroughly before placing new pairs of disposable gloves. Protective clothing, if not disposable, shall be cleaned daily.  Workers shall not wear company issued PPE outside food processing areas (toilet area, break area, meeting rooms, outside common hallways, etc.).’

Pradip Chackraborty & Jocelyn C. Lee, Sanitation and Hygiene COVID 19 ACTIVE Prevention Measures Ensuring Safe Food and Food Workers Health

Join 2020’s World Food Safety Day full-day event for FREE!
Watch 6 interviews with Top professionals and 5 workshops

 

Managing Business During Health Crisis

 

‘In order to cope with Coronavirus and mitigate and control possible spread inside production plants, social distancing and early isolation of possible coronavirus cases are fundamental.

Proper actions might include rescheduling factory shifts / hours of working. Starting from staggered entry and exit times, food companies are recommended to reschedule job shift arrangements, to minimize worker interactions between shifts. This includes grouping maintenance teams in small teams and schedule so that they have minimal physical interaction between the teams. Avoiding interaction between teams, during the weeks, will limit the damage in the event a worker is found positive, and limit the quarantine only to his/her shift companions, reducing the number of possible cases and allowing the company to count on the other teams. In order to ensure isolation of possible cases, some companies organized workers into rotating teams that would alternate in different working hours without mixing. In this case, it is suggested to assign a name to each team (even just the name of a color) not only for recognizability, but also to foster the team spirit and, with it, to enhance social responsiveness among colleagues and lead to better outcomes. Some companies rescheduled long shift patterns 7 on 7 off. A longer shift pattern will also be able to ensure that if a working team does contract COVID-19 while on shift, there is a healthy team for immediate replacement.

Many production plants over the world have agreed to adopt and implement extensive deep cleaning of facilities and equipment between shifts: this might extend periods between shifts. To provide a longer break between workers groups will allow contractors to do the cleaning and prevent cross-contamination if one of the groups has been compromised.

In the production environment, social distancing may require space, and spacing may require complementary measures that may also entail significant changes in the factory layout: it may be useful to offset the workstations on both sides of the processing lines in order to further distance the workers.

Employee well-being, communication and engagement is crucial to food safety in times of Covid19. ‘

 

Paola Cane, Managing Business During Health Crisis, kp, 2020

Now available COVID-19 Multi-lingual resources for FREE (including checklist)

English | Portuguese | Chinese | Spanish | French | Italian | Turkish | Arabic | Bengali | Urdu

This article was written with Jocelyn Lee Lion and Paola Cane

 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this article is based on research done in the last months and the authors personal experience and opinion. It is not intended to represent the view of any organization they work for or collaborate with. The authors will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information provided in the article.

Resources and References

CDC Center for Disease Control

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.htmlhttps://www.cdc.gov/handhygiene/campaign/promotional.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html

WHO World Health Organization: Interim guidance 7 April 2020

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331705/WHO-2019-nCoV-Food_Safety-2020.1-eng.pdf

https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1

FDA Food and Drug Administration

https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/food-safety-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/counterterrorism-and-emerging-threats/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/use-respirators-facemasks-and-cloth-face-coverings-food-and-agriculture-sector-during-coronavirus

FSIS USDA: SSOP Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/4cafe6fe-e1a3-4fcf-95ab-bd4846d0a968/13a_IM_SSOP.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

FMI The Food Industry Association: Coronavirus and Pandemic Preparedness for the Food Industry

https://www.fmi.org/docs/default-source/food-safety/pandemic-planning-final_verison3-12-20-6.pdf?sfvrsn=347510a0_2

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Pradip Chackraborty & Jocelyn C. Lee, Sanitation and Hygiene COVID 19 ACTIVE Prevention Measures Ensuring Safe Food and Food Workers Health

Paola Cane, Managing business during health crisis, kp, 2020

Dr. Ajay Shah, Food Scientist/Technologist  Fellow of the AIFST 2018, AAS Food Technology Scientific & Technical Food Solutions

Krutika Kachhy MSc Food Technologist, Quality Assurance,Technical Development, Head of Business Development of Food, Feed, and Nutraeuticals division of Molkem Chemicals.

Food Chain ID

Food Quality & Safety

NSF

Peter Romeo , COVID-19 Gives Rise To New Restaurant Jobs

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