Food Safety Advice For Preventing And Reducing Transmission Of Coronavirus
Coronavirus Disease 2019 or Covid-19 (shortened name) is a virus which affects the respiratory system, usually causing mild cold-like symptoms affecting the nose, upper throat, fever and sinuses and producing a cough. However, this can lead to more serious implications, such as pneumonia, respiratory failure and septic shock, particularly in vulnerable groups (e.g. the elderly and immunocompromised). Symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after exposure. The virus can also be transmitted before the person is symptomatic which has made controlling the spread more challenging.
The virus was first recognised in Dec 2019 in the Wuhan province of China and, although its exact origin has not been identified, it is believed to have been spread by a wild animal (bat, mink or snake) on sale at the Huanan Seafood market. It is here where the first case was identified. The market sells not only wild animals but also food for human consumption, both in close proximity to each other.
As of 30/1/2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has rated the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern. The largest number of cases is in China but cases have been seen across Asia, Europe, America and the UK. As we live in a global economy, both travelling and exporting goods from these regions, it is prudent for businesses to review both personnel policies, supply chain assurance, contingency and food safety.
Covid-19 is a respiratory virus transmitted in much the same way as a common cold – via sneezing, coughing and direct skin contact or via objects such as door handles (hence why hand washing is so important to help prevent the spread).
So far, there has been no evidence that the virus can be transmitted via food.
The virus is heat sensitive, so additional precautions are to ensure that hot water and soap is used to wash hands and that food is thoroughly cooked.
Transfer from person-to-person is the key method of transmission within a close working environment such as a factory. Some key aspects to review are personal hygiene, good manufacturing practices and supply chain. These will be covered in the next section and are an integral part of the STS manufacturing standards.
Considerations, Prevention & Controls
As the person-to-person route is the main method of transmission, WHO have stated some basic protective measures which apply to the general public and also within the food manufacturing environment. Some of these are listed below, however please refer to the site for further details:
·Wash hands frequently – using hot water and soap, followed by sanitiser. This eliminates the virus on the hands. Use a disposable towel paper to turn off taps to avoid recontamination of hands Respiratory hygiene – when coughing and sneezing cover the mouth and nose either into your flexed elbow or into a tissue which is then discarded into a closed bin, then wash hands Social distancing – try to keep 1 metre between yourself and other people where possible. There is some scepticism around the effectiveness of the general public using face masks , although there is some suggestion that it can help lower the risk of contracting the virus through others sneezing or coughing and via hand to mouth Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth – as hands can pick up the virus from contact surfaces Report all symptoms and seek medical advice – particularly if you have visited one of the key affected areas or been in close proximity with someone who has. Stay at home until you have recovered. Further considerations: Supply chain assurance – review the country of origin of all raw materials – particularly if through an agent. It may be that some materials will be restricted and movement of goods restricted as lockdown is in place in some areas in China. Prepare alternative supply if necessary. Also, review the purchasing method of the item, e.g. direct from farm or local markets Review audit status – ensure 3rd party accreditation from suppliers is up to date, or request up to date audits / questionnaires from “at risk” suppliers, especially from agents. Use Certificates of Analysis as additional assurance Food Fraud – where supply may be limited but demand stays the same or increases, the risk of food fraud is heightened. Be vigilant and ensure the supply chain is robust and the methods to review and approve suppliers as well as contingencies has been reassessed Personnel – review any business travel including audits / factory visits to affected areas. Postpone where possible and utilise Certificates of Analysis, questionnaires, etc., until normal business can resume. Return to Work – ensure a comprehensive system is in place, concentrating on areas which are affected. All staff, including office staff, should complete return to work forms following holiday or illness, regardless of their holiday destination Visitors – review who visits the site and how critical the visit is, as well as which department they are visiting. Make sure medical screening of all visitors is undertaken prior to entry. Visitors that have travelled to affected areas should not be allowed entry unless there is evidence of medial clearance. Handling, Preparing & Cooking Foods – avoid cross contamination and ensure food is thoroughly cooked
As information is being updated daily regarding the number of cases and epidemiology of the disease, please refer to the links below for any further advice: