The world has come to a metaphorical and literal standstill in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic. The number of total confirmed cases has already reached four hundred thousand as we finish the first quarter of 2020. With a high infection rate and potentially serious symptoms, food service businesses have been scrambling to adapt. Don’t pull out those N95 masks just yet! Your customer’s safety can be solved much more simply.
Our COVID-19 Food Safety Series is Probe It Food Safety’s effort to help guide food safety managers, handlers, and the general public on how to use food safety principles to protect themselves, their businesses, and their families. More detail on all of these preventative concepts can be found in our online food handler course.
First, let us focus on how food handlers can help prevent the transmission of the 2019 novel-coronavirus itself.
Although transmission of the coronavirus directly through food has yet to be confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), we know that the virus can enter a the body if a person touches their face after touching a surface contaminated with the virus. Thankfully, food handlers who have taken their food safety course with us are already well informed to help reduce the spread of the virus across surfaces.
When preparing and serving food, one must always be careful to keep distinct stations for different tasks in the establishment, as we describe in our online course. Otherwise, the virus can spread across all these surfaces very easily, and increase the chances the virus will enter someone’s body. This includes washing food at areas other than the stations for dishwashing or handwashing.
A New England Journal of Medicine study found that using proper cleaning and sanitizing solutions have disabled the virus so that it cannot infect a person’s cells. Cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces after each use will ensure that if virus does come into contact with something in your restaurant – say from an employee or a customer who does not know they have the virus – it will be removed from the surface and no longer pose a problem. Likewise, never re-use single-serve instruments (plastic plates, or single-use gloves) as this gives the virus the opportunity to easily transfer from one person to another.
Proper handwashing with soap has been confirmed by the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, and the Public Health Agency of Canada to be effective at disabling the virus. Our food handler course outlines the six steps of handwashing you must follow. In the restaurant, food handlers must always wash their hands properly before and after handling food, after handling waste or using the toilet, and after sneezing or coughing, of course!
If you notice an employee is consistently sneezing or coughing, then refer to your establishment’s employee illness policy and ask them to stay home. Having a person onsite who is potentially infected with the coronavirus is the worst possible scenario in a food-service business, since those infected and showing symptoms are the leading cause of the virus’ transmission. Especially during this time, to be safe is better than to be sorry.
By implementing basic food safety practices with proper vigilance and care, restaurants employees can take comfort in the fact that they are doing all they can to help prevent the spread of the virus responsible for COVID-19. All of these food safety practices are covered in depth with realistic scenarios in our online food handler course – so don’t wait until someone you know is infected, get certified today!