30 Mar 2020 Ten Food Safety recommendations for companies in the food sector during the COVID-19 crisis
The crisis caused by COVID-19 has created a new scenario for the different business sectors. In this respect, the food sector has now become one of the key players, faced with the need to guarantee the food supply to a population in lockdown.
“As well as this, in these times in which the healthcare system is saturated, it is all the more essential to ensure the production of safe food. To this end, it is of the utmost importance to continue to apply all the controls and analytical tests, as well as stepping up hygiene measures. My message is one of confidence because, here in Spain, most companies have safety management systems in place, as well as systems for risk assessment, the application of disinfection and cleaning plans—“, affirms Cristina Garrido, the head of Food Safety at CNTA.
According to the EFSA, there is no evidence that food is a route of transmission of the virus, although the expert states that “it can survive for some time on surfaces and it can therefore remain in product boxes or packaging. It is advisable to wear gloves, store things without their packaging, clean the area with alcohol and wash your hands”.
In response to the doubts and concerns of many enterprises in the industry, CNTA would advise companies to adopt a series of measures to guarantee quality and safety standards in these times of crisis:
1.Do not relax your HACCP system controls.COVID-19 is not transmitted through food, however other pathogens are.
2. Bring your cleaning and disinfection plan into line with COVID-19.
- a. Check the disinfectants that you’re using. Bear in mind that, for COVID-19, it’s best to use 0.1% bleach or 70% alcohol.
- b. Increase the application frequency in places frequented by staff (canteens, changing rooms, etc.) or where there is a movement of goods (loading and unloading areas, and warehouses).
- c. Step up the disinfection of small, frequently-handled elements (handles, buttons on vending machines, keypads, touch screens in general use, etc.).
- d. Step up the washing of workwear and use long programs, with the water as hot as possible.
3. Guarantee your supply chain.
- a.Contact your suppliers, as some may not be able to supply you due to a lack of production capacity or transport.
- b. Be prepared: you may need to approve new suppliers or raw materials. Make sure that you have covered all the points set out in your HACCP and that these new suppliers or materials do not represent a risk, or that you are able to control the additional risks.
4. Implement prevention measures for incoming goods. The virus survives for a certain amount of time on plastic, paper/cardboard and metal surfaces. Therefore:
- a. As far as possible, establish a specific unpacking area, provide personnel with gloves and insist on hand washing in this area.
- b. Remove the outer packaging/film before the entry of goods into the warehouse.
- c. Ensure the availability of a container with a lid for the disposal of this outer packaging.
- d. For small packets, the box can be disinfected with 70% alcohol (with non-reusable paper or by spraying).
5. 5- Raise the awareness of your good hygiene practices.The actions taken on a daily basis by the food sector to prevent contamination by pathogens, are equally effective against COVID-19:
- a. Increase the number of posters reminding staff of the importance of handwashing and the correct way to do so.
- b. Remind staff of the practice to separate streetwear from workwear.
- c. Insist on the need to report any symptom of illness, check the list of symptoms and, if they are not already on the list, include those associated with COVID-19.
6. Contact your customers
- a. Explain all the measures that you have implemented.
- b. Assess whether there are any restrictions of movement that could affect your dispatches.
- c. If you are an exporter, then be aware that some countries have changed their conditions (such as the USA).
7. Comply with the Ministry of Health’s measures in relation to social distancing and the treatment of persons with symptoms.
8. Support your team. The work of the food industry is essential and strategic for society during these difficult times. Motivate and recognise the work of your team. Motivate and recognise the work of your team.
9. Prepare for the future.
- a. If you already have a contingency plan, then review it to check how it responds to the situation and adapt it where appropriate. However, if there is no such plan in place, then establish one as soon as possible.
- b. Review your audit and inspection cycles. Each standard has established some guidelines.
- c. This will all come to an end, as has already happened in China, which advises us not to think only in the short term but to start to be prepared for the post-COVID situation. What socio-economic situation will we be faced with? What will post-COVID consumer behaviour be like? It is important to be aware of all this and to start to think about it. Some information is starting to become available on this subject, and a number of investigations are being proposed in this regard.
10. Get advice. If you have any doubts or need outside support, then contact any technology centres, laboratories or institutions that could help you resolve your doubts.