Food Safety During a Pandemic: An Expert Weighs In

Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine shared an article on food safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you might want to check out some of their tips.

Food safety continues to be a main topic of conversation within during the COVID-19 era. With delivery services, restaurants beginning to reopen and a number of meat plants (in the U.S. and Canada) dealing with outbreaks among their workers, it is no wonder concerns about food safety on behalf of employers, retailers and consumers are flying.

Ebrahim Noroozi, food scientist and occupational health and safety specialist with McGill’s Department of Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry, shared his findings with Canadian Occupational Safety (COS):

“While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in US has not found evidence that COVID-19 has been transmitted through meat or poultry, public health officials have said that coronavirus strains can live at live and freezing temperatures on food packaging. And so much about the risks of COVID-19 are uncertain and evolving that companies need to be on their toes.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reduced the number of inspections during the outbreak, but that does not limit the liability of executives if outbreaks (of COVID-19, salmonella, E-coli or other) reach the consumer.

Recently, the Canadian government released guidance for manufacturers, including those operating in the food sector, on how to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 in workers in these environments.

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) have made many resources available online, including PPE best practices, employee re-integration for larger groups and guidelines for workers’ psychological health and safety.

Noroozi continues: “Strict hygiene rules already govern the production of food and their implementation is subject to official controls which all food businesses must apply. The hygiene controls to be implemented by food business operators are designed to prevent the contaminations of the food by any pathogens, and will therefore also aim at preventing contamination of the food by the virus responsible for COVID-19.”

He shares many recommendations for those in the sector, including:

  • Cleaning and, where appropriate, disinfection of food producing facilities and equipment between production lots
  • Avoidance of cross-contamination between categories of food and food at different stages of the process
  • Being aware of personal hygiene such as washing and disinfecting hands
  • Wearing gloves and masks where required
  • Using dedicated hygienic clothes and shoes, or staying at home
  • Staying away from work whenever feeling ill

Food contamination is not a new topic, but learning how to improve food safety during this pandemic is something new. Guidelines are an important step in ensuring that production and distribution chain is safer, from farm (or factory) to table.

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