Cleaning, Hygiene, and Food Safety During COVID-19
Businesses serving food have faced many unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these is how to introduce even more stringent cleaning and hygiene processes to protect and reassure customers and staff. Most food service operators will already have robust food safety and hygiene processes. But even the best businesses can make improvements and staff will need extra vigilance to complete key tasks such as surface cleaning and hand hygiene even more carefully and often than normal.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 normally spreads from person to person by direct contact, touching contaminated surfaces, and through breathing in airborne droplets produced when infected people cough, sneeze, or breathe. Stopping any of these pathways helps to break the chain of infection. This is why good personal hygiene, surface disinfection, social distancing, and wearing masks are so important.
Good practice can start before customers arrive. Make information about infection prevention measures prominent on the business’s website. A booking system provides an excellent opportunity to explain disinfection processes. Tell customers about these measures on the phone or send them a text or email when confirming a booking.
Select suitable products for each task and make sure staff understand how to use them correctly. Reputable suppliers will be able to offer support including training aids, user guides, wall charts, videos, safety data sheets, and other documentation. Always follow manufacturers’ guidelines and recommendations.
The most basic protective measure everyone can take is hand hygiene. Staff must wash their hands frequently, such as when moving from one task to another, when switching between handling raw and cooked foods, after touching frequent touch surfaces, personal contact with colleagues, and after going to the toilet. Diners should also be encouraged to wash their hands more frequently, especially when entering or leaving dining areas and after going to the toilet.
Post signs to encourage good hand hygiene practices at the main entrance, by serveries and bars, above sinks, in washrooms, and anywhere else frequent hand washing or disinfection is recommended.
Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is effective at removing the virus that causes COVID-19. Sinks must be readily accessible, working correctly, and clearly designated for hand washing only. They must have hot water at the correct temperature and be fully stocked with soap and towels.
Hand disinfection should be used in addition to handwashing to help control the transmission of viruses and bacteria. Additional precautions are advisable during the pandemic. Place sufficient hand disinfectants in convenient locations for use by customers and staff. This will include entrances and exits as well as at reception desks, toilets, and entrances to kitchens from the dining room.
Wall-mounted dispensers offer many long-term cost-saving and sustainability benefits and are less likely to go missing. In the short term, however, it is probably more convenient to use portable bottles with built-in dispensers. Separate dispensers placed on each table are even more convenient and will provide additional reassurance for diners. Some suppliers also offer smaller bottles for personal use by staff. The aim is to make it easy for everyone to disinfect their hands whenever they wish.
Make sure the product is effective: suppliers should be able to show evidence their products meet relevant EN-numbered disinfection standards for the particular viruses or other pathogens of concern. Products meeting EN14476 against Viccinia Virus, for example, should be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Look for products that are pleasant and suitable for frequent application because this will encourage more use.
The other key aspect to infection prevention is surface disinfection. During the pandemic it is a sensible precaution to clean surfaces even more regularly than traditional schedules. This might mean many times a day.
In kitchens and other food preparation areas disinfect surfaces when switching between tasks, when swapping between raw and cooked food, and after touching surfaces with potentially infected hands or objects. In serving areas, tables, chairs, and trays should be cleaned after each use. Items left on tables (or in shared areas) such as menus, condiment sets, water jugs etc should be cleaned between each use. Disposable alternatives including menus and single-use condiments can be preferable and easier to manage.
Pay particular attention to surfaces or objects that are regularly touched or used by more than one person. This might include, for example, counter-tops, serveries, drinks machines, and self-service cabinet doors as well as general door handles and light switches.
Select products that meet EN14476 and other relevant disinfection standards and can be used often without damaging the surfaces being treated. Some formulations will disinfect multiple pathogens and can be used on a wide range of surfaces. Look for products that work quickly and can be used when customers, visitors and staff are present. This will help make it simpler and safer to disinfect surfaces frequently during the day.
Good cleaning and hygiene are always important to maintain food safety and protect customers and staff. They are even more important during the pandemic because, when completed frequently and visibly, offer additional reassurance to everyone present. Diversey has published comprehensive information and guidance to help its food service customers achieve the highest standards of hygiene and food safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.