Food Handling and COVID-19: What You Need to Know
The last year has been one of adjustment for virtually every business in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced industries and public health officials to revise their best practices and adopt procedures that are meant to protect both staff and customers from infection.
This impact has been felt acutely in the food-service industry where the interaction between staff, food, and customers is unavoidable.
Because all this revision has come at a break-neck pace, many restaurant owners/workers are scrambling to ensure that they have properly implemented the new guidelines.
To help restaurants determine if they are in compliance with the new guidelines, we've compiled this quick-reference guide for those in the food-service industry.
Practice Proper Hygiene, Social Distancing, and PPE
The first line of defense for restaurants when it comes to COVID-19 is to ensure that you have guidelines in place with regards to proper hygiene, social distancing, and PPE.
Some of these measures simply involve cultivating an increased work-place awareness concerning best practices that food establishments were already doing, while other practices are entirely new like social distancing.
Here's a basic checklist for your establishment.
- Hand Washing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that employees wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with hot water after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Signage/Training. Workplace hygiene isn't new for restaurants, but it is especially important now. The FDA also recommends placing signs around your establishment to help remind your staff what the procedures are, in addition to having occasional training to assist with compliance.
- Sick Employees. It is absolutely vital that if anyone is symptomatic, they do not come to work.
- Social distancing. Where it is possible, the FDA advises six feet of social distancing between employees at all times. They acknowledge that this isn't always possible to implement perfectly, but that it should at least be attempted.
- PPE. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all employees wear facemasks at all times.
- Screening. The CDC also recommends taking employees' temperature as they enter the restaurant and between shifts. A temperature of 100.4 F is considered symptomatic.
Managing Food Pick-Up and Delivery
The second aspect of protecting you, your staff, and your customers from COVID is to establish a food pick-up and delivery system that incorporates social distancing guidelines. This can be implemented in different ways, but here are some ideas from the FDA.
- Designated Pick-up Areas. When customers come to pick up food, the FDA recommends having a contactless pick-up zone where an employee drops off the food and the customer picks it up.
- Pick-Up/Delivery Alerts. When employees drop off food for deliveries, or when a customer's food is ready for pick-up, consider sending text alerts in order to avoid the interaction.
These procedures and best practices certainly take some getting used to, but once they become the established norm for your business, they won't seem so cumbersome. This means that you can get back to what really matters, making great food for everybody to enjoy.
Brian Evans serves as National Sales Manager of Industrial & Safety at Justrite Safety Group, which owns NoTrax, a manufacturer of floor matting products and antimicrobial rubber cutting boards.