Food Safety recommendations for COVID-1905/01/2020
As a result of the outbreak of the new coronavirus or COVID-19 there are many doubts about its implications for food handling. One of the most common, and which concerns us directly as food handlers, is whether the consumption of food can become a source of coronavirus contamination.
According to the European Food Safety Association (EFSA), no previous outbreaks of coronavirus have been linked to contamination by food. There is no current evidence that COVID-19 is foodborne either.
Therefore, we can accept that COVID-19 is not transmitted by food, given the precedents and the absence of known cases, although it cannot be stated categorically yet in the absence of more complete studies.
In any case, both the WHO and the EFSA have published a series of recommendations, which we explain in this article, for extreme precautions in the area of food handling and food hygiene.
In this article you will find everything you need to know about the coronavirus and its implications for food handling, as well as the recommendations to follow in order to minimize the chances of infection.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses whose main characteristic is their ability to cause disease in both animals and humans.
In humans, the diseases they cause are known to be respiratory in nature, ranging in severity from a simple common cold to severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
This recently discovered coronavirus is responsible for the coronavirus disease called COVID-19, also of respiratory type.
How is a coronavirus transmitted?
The transmission of the virus from animals to humans is unusual but, when it happens, the virus can evolve and become contagious among humans as well.
Human-to-human transmission of the virus occurs through droplets from the nose or mouth that are released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or exhales.
These droplets fall on objects and surfaces near the carrier, so that other people can come in contact with these infected objects or surfaces and then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes, thereby contracting COVID-19.
It is also possible to become infected by inhaling airborne droplets that a person has spread by coughing or exhaling. For this reason it is important to keep a safe distance of at least one meter.
Is the coronavirus transmitted by food?
According to the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), in no previous known outbreak of coronavirus, such as SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV, was there any transmission through food. Therefore, there is no evidence that the new COVID-19 is different in that aspect.
There is currently no evidence pointing to food as a likely means of transmission of the virus.
Recommendations for food handling in the current scenario
The WHO, the EFSA and other agencies have published a series of recommendations to be implemented during food handling in establishments.
These recommendations include:
- Wash your hands regularly: before, during and after handling food. In addition, it is recommended to wash your hands thoroughly before starting work, after cleaning or disinfecting, after using the toilet, drinking, eating, smoking, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, as well as after handling garbage or cash.
- Wear a mask all the time to avoid contamination of food, utensils and work spaces. The higher the degree of protection of the mask, the better.
- Use different cooking utensils (such as cutting boards and knives) when handling raw and cooked foods to avoid any possible cross-contamination.
- Regularly and deeply clean and disinfect all surfaces in contact with the food, such as worktops, shelves, counters, etc.; or in contact with customers, such as doorbells, doorknobs, etc.
- It is recommended that customers pay by card or by other electronic means. When this is not possible, it is advisable to use disinfectant gel after touching the money.
- Whenever possible, provide clients with masks, disinfectant gels and disposable gloves at the counter or other locations.
Besides these recommendations, it may also be a good idea to place posters to remind clients and workers of the most important safety measures.