Food Safety Tips to Mitigate COVID-19 Risks

By Francine L. Shaw 

COVID-19 has changed the way businesses operate. Now, all foodservice businesses (restaurants, hotels, grocery/convenience stores, etc.) must implement new COVID-19 policies, while also following other food safety protocols (cooking foods to proper temperatures, avoiding cross-contamination and cross-contact, accommodating food allergies, washing hands properly, etc.).

As your company learns to navigate our “new normal” in this post-COVID-19 world, the following tips can maximize safety and mitigate risks for coronavirus, norovirus, foodborne illnesses and other food safety breaches: 

  • Enhance cleaning and disinfecting efforts. Disinfection procedures are important to combat COVID-19. Your entire facility—especially high-touch areas—must be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day, using chemicals that meet EPA standards for killing COVID-19. Proper sanitation is also essential to combatting norovirus and other foodborne illnesses.
  • Wash your hands. Handwashing is the number one way to prevent the spread of disease, including COVID-19. Ensure that all employees wash their hands with soap and warm water for a minimum of 30 seconds. Wash hands frequently, including after using the restroom; using cleaning products; coughing/sneezing; or touching money, cellphones, doorknobs, etc. All employees must follow this important safety practice.
  • Implement COVID-19 safety protocols. Enforce social distancing and require appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) based on the guidelines for your jurisdiction. This may include kitchen staff standing six feet away from each other, dining tables moved to proper social distances, implementing one-way traffic patterns, using disposable menus and/or requiring employees to wear masks.
  • Don’t let employees work when sick. Take employees’ temperatures with a scanning thermometer before their shift. If they have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, or any symptoms of COVID-19, norovirus or other contagious illnesses—including fever, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, etc.—send them home. 
  • Train employees regularly. Explain what the new protocols entail and why these rules are so important. Ensure compliance. Take immediate corrective actions when employees aren’t following protocol.
  • Add COVID-19 processes to your existing food safety protocols. While focusing on the COVID-19 crisis, don’t lose sight of other important food safety protocols. It’s important to train employees around COVID-19 policies (e.g., new cleaning and disinfecting practices, wearing PPE, maintaining social distance, etc.) but also reinforce the importance of basic food safety rules, such as cooking foods to proper temperatures, avoiding time/temperature abuse, avoiding cross-contamination, accommodating food allergies, etc. It’s important to mitigate COVID-19 risks, but it’s essential to prevent other food safety breaches as well.

Francine L. Shaw is president of Savvy Food Safety Inc., which offers services such as consulting, food safety education, food safety inspections, crisis management training and developing norovirus policies.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.