Coronavirus Food Safety: Can you Contract COVID-19 Through Food?

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Coronavirus food safety is our main focus. Just a few months ago most of us had probably never even heard the word coronavirus. Now the word coronavirus and COVID-19 had become an all too familiar part of our vocabulary.

With the world facing this pandemic, everyday life for many of us has been disrupted in ways we might never imagine. And sad to say in a short time this disease has taken the lives of thousands. Countries most directly affected include Korea, Italy, and the United States.

Coronavirus is a certain kind of virus that cause disease in an animal, but lately, it has jumped from animal to human. And the rate at which this virus spread cause a lot of havoc in the mind of many.

And this has given birth to a lot of thought-provoking question most of which you may have asked already. Of such question include:

  • What is the coronavirus food safety?
  • Can someone contract COVID-19 through food?
  • How is COVID-19 transmitted?
  • What can food workers do to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
  • Is washing your hands frequently important?
  • What is the recommended hand watching method?
  • Is it recommended for food workers to wear gloves?
  • Should I still wash my hands even though I wear gloves?
  • Is there any danger if consumers eat from open food?

These and many more below are what you need to know about coronavirus food safety. I, therefore, encourage you to read to the end to discover the right approach to coronavirus food safety.

Can Someone Contract COVID-19 Through Food?

There is no affirmative conclusion or evidence that someone can contact Convid-19 through food. The major way of developing or contracting the virus is through direct contact with the infected person.

However, expert advice that food businessmen and consumers should endeavor to maintain good hygienic practice, such as washing your hand frequently and using sanitizer more often, since thorough cooking of food will definitely kill the virus.

How is COVID-19 Transmitted?

The virus can be transmitted in two ways.

  1. Directly: Through having direct contact with the infected person’s body fluid or droplets from coughing or sneezing.
  2. Indirectly: Someone can contract the virus if in any way there is a contact with any surfaces that the infected person has sneezed or cough on. According to experts, it is found that the viruses could survive up to 72 hours (3 days) on hard surfaces depending on the material. However, the virus will reduce over time as it dies off gradually.

What can Food Workers do to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19?

Although there is no clear evidence that the virus can be spread through food but germs do. So, we highly encourage you to practice routine food safety procedures to reduce the risk of contacting COVID-19.

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Food workers or staff with any symptoms of COVID-19 shouldn’t work, handle food since they might introduce the virus to the food or the surface within where the food is prepared by coughing or sneezing.

Food safety procedures to reduce the risk of contacting COVID-19 may include the following:

  • cough/cold hygiene practices
  • safe food practices
  • avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing

In addition, the HSE is advising ‘social distancing’ to help slow the spread of coronavirus. 

Is Washing Your Hands Frequently Important?

Yes, washing your hands regularly is highly recommended to reduce the risk of developing COVID-19  

Food workers must wash hands:

  • before starting work 
  • after coughing, sneezing or blowing nose
  • before handling cooked or ready-to-eat food 
  • after handling or preparing raw food 
  • after handling waste 
  • after cleaning duties 
  • after using the toilet
  • after eating, drinking or smoking  
  • after handling money
  • generally, on a regular basis

Good hygiene and cleaning are also important to avoid cross-contamination between raw or undercooked foods and cooked or ready-to-eat foods in the kitchen.  

What is the Recommended Hand Washing Method?

  • Wash hands under warm running water
  • Use enough soap to form a good lather
  • Rub all parts of hands with soap and water
  • Lather for at least 20 seconds, vigorously and thoroughly rubbing all hand surfaces, including the fingertips and thumbs
  • Rinse hands thoroughly with running water
  • Dry hands thoroughly, using disposable paper towels, if possible

Is it Recommended for Food Workers to Wear Gloves? 

The answer to this question is no. Experts recommend the handling of foods with bare hands as much as proper handwashing procedures are in place.  

Although, food workers may use gloves. It is expected that it changes frequently and the hand should be wash before and after the changing of gloves.

Hands should also be a wash after carrying nonrelated food substances such as opening/closing doors by hand, handling money, emptying bins, etc.

Should I Still Wash my Hands even When I Wear Gloves?

Realistically, not just washing your hands but applying the proper techniques is highly important. Washing your hands before and after changing gloves is extremely recommended by experts.

The problem with the use of gloves is that if the staff is not given proper training in food safety, gloves are often seen as a barrier to food contamination.

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Staff may then carry out many non-food related tasks (e.g. handling money, emptying bins, wiping counters) while wearing the same pair of gloves that they then use to prepare food.

When wearing gloves for a prolonged period of time, without frequent changing and hand washing, bacteria on the skin rapidly multiply due to the warm, moist environment created by the gloves.

If the gloves tear or are removed and food is handled without handwashing, a high number of bacteria can be transferred to the food.

Is there any Danger if Consumer Eats from Open Food?

There is currently little scientific information about the survival of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) on the surface of open food.

According to research, it is found that there are some food surface that the virus can not survive at all but do survive in some.

Therefore ensure that you maintain good hygiene practices when it comes to open food. This will reduce the risk of contamination of the food.

People should strictly observe good personal hygiene practices at all times around open food. Customers and food businesses are expected to behave in a hygienic manner.

Food businesses are obliged to monitor open food displays to make sure they are hygienic and avoid having such open food displays near tills or serve-over counters, where customers are ordering or paying for food. 

How Should Food Businesses Manage Open Food Displays?

To help avoid the transmission of COVID-19 through surface contact, frequent washing and sanitizing of all food contact surfaces and utensils is advised. 

Foodservice workers must practice frequent hand washing and, if using gloves, must change them before and after preparing food.

Foodservice workers must ensure frequent cleaning and sanitizing of counters, serving utensils and condiment containers.  

If possible, hand sanitizers should be made available to consumers on their way in and out of the food premises.

Other Practical Measures to Prevent or Stop the Spread of COVID-19

Social Distancing

To help prevent or stop the spread of coronavirus, social distancing should be implemented according to the world health organization.

This involves maintaining a distance of 2 meters (6.5 feet) between people and reduced social interactions.

To implement social distancing, food businesses could:

  • space out tables and chairs in dining areas so they are 2 meters apart
  • remove in-store seating if possible
  • limit the number of people who can come into your food business/restaurant/supermarket/market stall etc. at any one time
  • offer a ‘take-away’ food service if possible
  • use spacing measures (e.g. floor markers) at tills or queues, if possible
  • use a ticketing system if appropriate
  • ff330fspace out tables and chairs in dining areas so they are 2 meters apart
  • remove in-store seating if possible
  • limit the number of people who can come into your food business/restaurant/supermarket/market stall etc. at any one time
  • offer a ‘take-away’ food service if possible
  • use spacing measures (e.g. floor markers) at tills or queues, if possible
  • use a ticketing system if appropriate
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General

Avoid handling money and the possible you can apply and encourage cashless policy if possible. But if you should handle money for any reason ensure to wash your hands after handling money. Always remember that prevention is better than cure.

However, a lot of food businesses are displaying a high level of hygiene, by using disposable drinking cups/containers. This has been a good measure put in place to reduce the risk of workers contracting the disease. Therefore, customers should endeavor to support such practice.

Hand sanitizers should be provided by businesses where possible. Wipes could be provided for customers to clean the handles of shopping trollies and baskets.

Touchpoints e.g. trollies, keypads, door handles, etc., should be cleaned more frequently. Keep doors open where possible to minimize contact.

In general, food business owners should remember that they have particular responsibilities under food law and must maintain proper hygiene practices at all times. 

They should, in general:

  • ensure that staff are trained appropriately in food hygiene and hygienic practices
  • ensure effective supervision of staff to reinforce hygienic practices
  • provide the correct facilities e.g. hand washing, toilets, to enable staff to practice good hygiene
  • ensure staff and contractors report any physical signs/symptoms of illness, before commencing work or while in the workplace
  • keep vigilant and ensure that staff are not ill and are fit to work

Bottom line

COVID-19 is not transmitted through food or ingredients. Even if surfaces or packaging have been contaminated, the virus will only survive on such surfaces for a short period.

But for the sake of coronavirus food safety maintaining proper hygiene practices at all times is advised.

However, consumers showing any sign of COVID-19 symptoms (fever, new persistent cough, shortness of breath) should avoid any interactions with other members of the public. They should avoid going to shops, supermarkets, restaurants, take-aways, cafes, etc.

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