If you keep up to date with the general news, you will have heard about the Coronavirus emerging health threat. One of my clients contacted me asking if there is anything that they should be doing to mitigate this risk to their food business. The following is what I advised along with a bit of education on the Coronavirus and your obligations.
Food business obligations
The majority of GFSI standards have a requirement to stay current with new and emerging issues. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) also mandates that you must conduct a reanalysis of your food safety plan whenever you become aware of new information about potential hazards associated with food.
Transmitting Coronavirus through food
At this stage, I have not been able to find any information to support that the coronavirus can be transmitted through food. It can, however, be spread from human contact with animals and then human-to-human transmission. So…how can this impact your food business?
Impact on your food business
The impact will vary depending on your geographical location and the make-up of your workforce. With the human-to-human transmission, there is a risk if not adequately controlled, for the virus to infect multiple staff within your food business. With multiple employees unable to work, this could impact your business’s ability to produce your products. It would be a human resources issue for your food business.
Assess the risk
To stop the spread of any disease, it is all about implementing suitable control measures. But first, as a food business, we need to assess the risk. I have advised my client to have all the employees complete our ‘Medical Screening for Food Handlers’ questionnaire.
Completed questionnaires will provide baseline information around any recent travel to China, if employees are suffering from ‘flu-like’ symptoms and if there has been contact with anyone who is experiencing similar symptoms.
Based on the information gathered from the medical screen questionnaires, I suggest implementing the following control and monitoring measures:
- Increase monitoring of employee’s displaying flu-like symptoms
- Run a staff training session on the importance of good personal hygiene practices
- Encourage staff to report illness or contact with family members who may have ‘flu-like’ symptoms. Signage in restrooms and staff facilities is a great way to communicate this message