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John Holah, Principal Corporate Scientist, FS&PH, Kersia and Brice Minvielle, Food Safety Expert, Kersia
Like all key industries that have remained in production during the COVID-19 pandemic, the food industry has had to undertake additional hygiene measures, primarily during production periods, to help manage coronavirus. These have primarily consisted of:
Hopefully, these practices, designed to reduce the number of viruses on the hands and in the food processing environment have helped in their intended COVID-19 control.
However, these changes which have reduced the chance of person-to-person cross-infection and enhanced both personal hygiene and cleaning and disinfection, are perhaps the biggest single change in such hygiene practices within society and the food industry for many years. Is it possible that these changes could also have brought additional benefits in terms of food safety or personal health?
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
The world is facing an unprecedented threat from the COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2. First and foremost, COVID-19 is a risk for public health generally, as well as an occupational safety risk for workers in any type of business or industry where individuals work in close proximity to one another. However, SARS-CoV-2 itself is not viewed as a direct food safety hazard. Many countries are following the advice from the World Health Organization (WHO)regarding the introduction of physical distancing measures as one of the ways in which transmission of the disease can be reduced (WHO, 2020a).
The purpose of these guidelines is to highlight measures needed to control COVID-19 in food operations, so that the safety of workers is protected, and the safety of the food supply is preserved. These measures should not compromise traditional food safety controls and food safety management but should complement ongoing food safety practices.
Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 on worker health and capacity, food safety practices in food premises should continue to adhere consistently to all applicable food hygiene standards, HACCP plans and all essentials of other pre-requisite programmes in line with the established FSMS for the individual facility.
FAO continues to monitor the situation closely for any changes that may affect this guidance. Should any factors change, FAO will issue a further update. Otherwise, this guidance document will expire two years after the date of publication.