Prerequisite To Stop The Spread

Food

Prerequisite To Stop The Spread

Navenia Wellington

Thursday, October 29, 2020

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Across the world, scientists have stated that currently there is no evidence to support that COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses are foodborne. Since these infections are not foodborne why is there a negative impact on the food industry? Impact is seen from the measures used to prevent transmission such as working from home. According to the COVID-19 and food safety guidance for food business, food industry workers do not have this opportunity and continue to work in their usual workplaces. The best approach for food businesses is to prevent the infection from entering the establishment in the first place. This is done through the use of a preventive approach to food safety that is built on prerequisite programmes.

Prerequisite programmes (PRPs) are defined by ISO 22000 as basic conditions and activities that are necessary within the organisation and throughout the food chain to maintain food safety. These are important because, during processing and handling there are many processes that come together to ensure food is of good quality, safe and unadulterated. In summary, PRPs focus on production environment, facility and people. These programmes will include:

• Cleaning and Sanitation

• Pest Control

• Equipment and Maintenance

• Personal Hygiene

• Training

• Purchasing

• Transportation

• Cross-Contamination and Cross-Contact

To prevent, halt or reduce the spread of any infection, personal hygiene, training, cleaning and sanitation are the backbone of any initiative employed. A known challenge to food business operations is preventing an employee from working while sick. A lot of times, employees do not display symptoms observable by a supervisor, therefore, the onus rests with the employee to declare illness; therein lies the problem. Currently, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has a list of actions to prevent the spread; let us match them against these PRPs.

• Wearing of mask (hygiene and training)

• Cover cough or sneeze with tissue, dispose of it (hygiene and training)

• Washing of hands (hygiene, training, cleaning and sanitation)

• Stop touching face and parts thereof (hygiene and training)

• Clean and sanitise areas (cleaning and sanitation, training)

• Stay home if you are sick (hygiene and training)

Therefore, the infection may enter the establishment because food workers are at work while sick. They may do this if they lack proper training or cannot afford to be sick. Working while sick can cause a chain reaction such as compromising other workers and the environment. It is imperative that the training programme is developed and implemented not only to increase food safety awareness, but also to influence behavioural change. Workers should not feel penalised if they are sick; so food business owners must review their sick leave policy, especially in these unprecedented times. Another consideration is to implement screening as part of the PRPs; this includes keeping track of who is sick, how long they have been sick, what are their symptoms, when did they become sick, did they fall sick at work, when did/will they come back to work.

Prerequisite programmes are the foundation of the food safety system. Implementation and maintenance of prerequisites, particularly personal hygiene, cleaning, sanitation and training, will go a far way to prevent infections in a food establishment (restaurants, processing plants, corner shops, bars etc). Remember: Implement, maintain and enforce.


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