COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness. There's no current evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food and no reported cases of COVID-19 have been linked to contamination of food.
Whilst this may be true, hygiene and cleanliness are more important than ever, not only to protect your customers, but also to protect your brand. At present, information available dictates that this virus spreads in much the same way as the common cold, in that it comes from exposure to “respiratory droplets” where a persons is exposed from either close contact with a person infected, or contact with a surface or object that has become contaminated.
Current evidence on other coronavirus strains shows that while coronaviruses appear to be stable at low and freezing temperatures for a certain period, food hygiene and good food safety practices can prevent their transmission through food. Specifically, coronaviruses are thermolabile, which means that they are susceptible to normal cooking temperatures (70°C). Therefore, as a general rule, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, raw milk or raw animal organs should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods. *(Source WHO Situation Report 32).
Therefore, the virus is eliminated through normal cooking methods of which we are already familiar with. There is a veritable ocean of information out there at the moment relating to this virus and it is easy to get lost in it all. But I want to reassure you that keeping the food your business serves safe can be achieved through normal and current food handling practices.
So here it is, on top of your normal cleaning, sanitising, food handling and hygiene practices, below are some pro tips on how you can achieve optimal food safety in this era of COVID-19.
This needs to be stepped up, hand washing of course is paramount but further to this, undertake the following to minimise contamination risk:
- Ensure single use items (containers, cutlery, napkins, transport bags etc) remain in packaging until required to be used
- Staff to use hand sanitiser before handing single use items
- Use containers only once and discard
- Consider using pre-packaged cutlery that is sealed
- Sanitise common contact surfaces such as eftpos terminals, tills, benches, handles, knobs on equipment often
- If using gloves, change these after every task
- If available get staff to wear face masks when preparing and handling food
- Wash your fresh produce thoroughly even if you are cooking it.
- Use a Fruit and Vegetable sanitiser to clean fresh produce before preparing it (care must be taken if using these items, always follow manufacturer directives) these are available from various suppliers across the country.
- Do not allow cross contamination of food items, regularly wash and sanitise benches, food handling equipment, cutting boards, knives and utensils in line with good food hygiene practices.
- Store food correctly in sealed packaging, in a manner that avoids cross contamination, i.e. cooked or ready to eat foods above raw items, meats on lower shelving etc.
- All single use items in original packaging and keep covered to avoid contamination of these items.
- Cook all food items thoroughly (temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius for meat items and wet dishes and a rolling boil for soups etc).
- Cool pre-prepared food items such as soups, stews and pre-prepared meals, quickly and place in cold storage, label this food with a date prepared and used by date.
- Keep food items at safe temperatures (either above 60 degrees Celsius or below 5 degrees Celsius). Do not refreeze food items once defrosted.
- Monitor all hot and cold storage devices throughout the day and record the readings.
- Use probe thermometers to do this rather than the external temperature gauge.
- Consider the use of an automated system to monitor temperatures to provide consistent and live temperature readings, (see Safe Food Pro monitoring devices for further information).
Clean and Sanitise
- All food contact areas often
- All food storage areas regularly
- All equipment after use