The COVID-19 pandemic poses major challenges for the food industry. Securing the food supply to the world’s population must be guaranteed, even when there’s a risk of infection and during lockdowns. At the same time, the requirements in terms of hygiene, food safety and occupational health and safety have to be optimized constantly.
Learning from the past
The lockdown at the end of March 2020, which affected a third of the world's population, made interaction between food producers, logistics, retail and the restaurant trade more difficult. In some supermarkets, consumers were faced with empty shelves. Most restaurants were closed all over the world, and only take-away or delivery services remained in operation. This situation could recur at any time and all those involved need to be prepared.
Meeting the responsibility
Food safety authorities around the world are investigating how the virus behaves in relation to food. They are also analyzing possible transmission routes. The aim is to prevent the virus from spreading between producers, retailers, caterers and consumers. So far (as of: September 2020), the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through food has not been proven. However, this does not absolve the food industry from taking safety measures when it comes to the production and sale of food in order to avoid overburdening the healthcare systems.
Impact on productivity and occupational health and safety
The pandemic has rapidly changed the output and occupational safety requirements in food production and processing plants:
Retrofitted Plexiglas shields have to be disinfected and swabbed for the presence of airborne pathogens.
Additional testing and disinfection measures, including monitoring and data collection, result in delays which have a negative impact on productivity
New evidence regarding COVID-19 among employees must be provided and documented
These steps can be taken by companies in the food sector to ensure compliance with record-keeping requirements:
Collect timely, accurate data on employee health and safety
Comply with the guidelines of local authorities and the WHO
Monitor compliance with the new protocols
How a digital quality management system can support you
Flexible and fast adaptation of existing processes to new situations
Smooth integration of new checks and corrective measures
Shared, secure storage and evaluation of all data collected on food safety and occupational health and safety
6 insights related to food and COVID-19
The information shown reflects the current scientific information (September 2020). Please note that the COVID-19 pandemic and insights related to transmission of the virus are rapidly evolving.
Lifetime of the virus on packaging
The COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and up to 24 hours on cardboard. The tests were carried out under laboratory conditions with controlled relative humidity and temperature, and should therefore be interpreted with caution in a real setting. (van Doremalen et al., 2020)
Cooking temperatures (> 70 °C) kill the virus
Scientific studies show that SARS-CoV-2 is inactivated after 5 minutes of incubation at 70 °C (Chin et al., 2020). Thus, normal cooking temperatures (> 70 °C) are sufficient for virus inactivation.
Virus survives freezing temperatures
Studies show that SARS-CoV-2 is highly stable at 4 °C. It is also expected to show similar behaviour to its predecessors at freezing temperatures, i.e. it could remain infectious at -20 °C for up to 2 years. (WHO)
Virus transmission through raw food
There is currently no scientific evidence that food eaten raw can be linked to virus transmission. It is important that customers and staff maintain good hygiene practices both near open food displays such as salad bars, fresh produce displays and bakery products, and during processing and serving. There is a higher risk of infection when buying apples and sandwiches than when consuming them. (WHO)
Lifetime of the virus on surfaces
Research has shown that under controlled laboratory conditions, SARS-CoV-2 can survive on stainless steel for up to 72 hours. (van Doremalen et al., 2020) The FDA recommends regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces such as work stations, cash registers, payment terminals, door handles, tables and worktops.
No viral replication in food
Corona viruses cannot multiply in food or on its packaging. They need an animal or human host in order to multiply. It is therefore not necessary to disinfect food packaging materials. But after handling packaging and before consumption, hands should be washed thoroughly. (WHO)
Food Safety and COVID-19: Field reports from our customers and partners
“Our customers' requirements in terms of hygiene and food safety have changed.”
Uğur Çayırlı, Food Safety & Quality Administrator at HUQQA, Turkey
How Testo Solutions can support you during COVID-19
Work with helpful checklists
Regular adaptation of processes and documentation due to new regulations
Safeguard the health of employees
Quick, easy creation of special checklists to comply with hygiene and health regulations
The following checklists can be adapted to your local circumstances quickly and easily: - Non-contact indication of elevated body surface temperature - COVID-19 self-declaration - WHO guidelines for hand-washing
Carry out non-contact remote audits
Compliance with food safety regulations – also for delivery service
Assess whether standards are being met, taking into account the contact restrictions
Carry out non-contact audits at any time
Enjoy access to all quality data in the digital archive, from anywhere
View quality controls for all sites in real time
Demonstrate adherence to the compliance guidelines faster, in greater detail and in a more responsible manner
Get food safety under control
These days, food safety is more important to consumers than ever before
Food production, services sector and retail are all considered critical infrastructure, so the food industry has a responsibility to respond to this need
Develop plans and measures to be able to respond even faster and better in the next emergency
Processes can be adapted to current conditions at the push of a button, so that tasks and quality controls that need to be carried out are always kept up to date.
Automated real-time monitoring of temperatures in cold storage areas and refrigeration units enables the efficient use of cooling capacities. You can save energy and prevent equipment wear.
Ensure hygienic conditions – safeguard health
Hygiene is an essential factor in the prevention of COVID-19 infections •
The relevance of compliance with and documentation of hygiene regulations will also increase over the long term
With the Solutions, Testo offers digital systems for the documentation and assurance of hygiene standards
All-in-one solutions and more information for the food industry