How the Coronavirus health threat can affect your food business

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.

Control Measures

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

Next Steps

To learn more about Coronavirus, you can check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The World Health Organization also has access to updates on the outbreak.

Free Resources

You can download a collection of free resources to help educate everyone in your food business. These include:

  • Free training on COVID-19
  • Educational posters in multiple languages that you display around your food business
  • Links to reputable government websites to keep current with the COVID-19 status
  • Flyers and handouts to provide to employees and make available in staff areas
  • HACCP Mentor Template (form) for Medical Screening for Food Handlers

Download “Coronavirus Resources” – Downloaded 5637 times – 5.84 MB

*** Resources are downloaded as a .zip file and contain word documents and PDF documents***

9 thoughts on “How the Coronavirus health threat can affect your food business”

  1. Here, in Canada all the non-essential services have been closed and Canadians have been requested by the Prime Minister to stay at home to prevent further spread of COVID 19. All the restaurants and bars are closed except for takeout or pick up services.
    Let us hope the people follow the personal hygiene as instructed by the health services department.
    Any advice as to how to handle fruits and vegetables at the grocery stores?

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Thanks for your comment Nizarali. For fruits and veg just follow the basic food safety rules of wash, peel or cook.

  2. Francis Wallington

    Hi Amanda , Thank you for collating this information . The situation is dynamic. When clients ask for a risk assessment or contingency plan in response to Covid 19 , my response is currently that the certification standard requires us to have a business continuity plan. Our controls are beefed up in terms of visitor control and hand hygiene.
    I do object to naming infected individuals which is an invasion of privacy .

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      You are very welcome Francis. Hopefully, those who have written business continuity plans in place had considered an ‘infectious disease’ event. I, also with you, object to the naming of infected individuals. I have been amazed at how the media have been reporting these cases. A massive invasion of privacy!

  3. Thank you for resources.
    Several casinos taking action.
    Buffet meal service has it’s challenges for both guests and staff.
    Restaurants are down between 25-35%
    Glad to hear your OK.
    Jeff Nelken

      1. Rebecca Kayombo Mufuk

        Hello Amanda, glod to hear that you are well, here in south africa we are in lock down for 21 days, but people are not acting responsible to stay indoors to prevent this virus from spreading, thanks for resources.

  4. Hi Amanda,
    I followed with sadness what was happening in Australia with the bushfires, it was very bad …
    I’m glad you’re okay. I hope everything will be calmer from now on.
    Thank you very much for the post.

    Rosário Pereira

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