COVID-19 Increased Sanitation Measures for Food Businesses

Improved sanitation is the primary way to stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Improved sanitation is the primary way to stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Step 1. Review Your Cleaning & Sanitizing Schedule

A regular cleaning and sanitizing schedule for a food business includes instructions for cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces such as work benches, food preparation equipment and chopping boards.

To ensure the health and safety of your customers during the COVID-19 outbreak, more items than usual need to be sanitized. Anything that is touched often by multiple customers or that is located in a high traffic area needs to be sanitized in order to prevent coronavirus contamination.

Items that may need to be sanitized include:

  • Credit card machines
  • Chairs and tables
  • Menus
  • Sauce containers
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Light switches
  • Door handles
  • Soap dispensers
  • Elevator and access buttons
  • Railings
  • Food trays

Once you have a list of all the items that need to be cleaned and sanitized, update your cleaning and sanitizing schedule. Don’t forget to include details of who will perform these tasks and the frequency in which they need to be performed.

Step 2. Check Your Sanitizers

Most sanitizers are effective at killing the coronavirus, but it is important to check with your supplier to confirm that your sanitizer of choice is effective against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

As you prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic, take the opportunity to confirm that you are:

  • using the correct concentration of sanitizer
  • applying it at the correct temperature
  • applying it for the correct amount of time

Recent research (Kampf 2020) discovered that two commonly used sanitizers that are effective in killing coronaviruses are chlorine (1000ppm) or hydrogen peroxide (0.5%).

Step 3. Check Your Dish Washing Machines

Infected customers could transfer the coronavirus onto dishes, glassware or cutlery. Infected employees could transfer the coronavirus onto chopping boards, pots and pans or utensils.

You need to be sure that your dish washing machines are effectively sanitizing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus onto other items and to your customers.

Commercial dish washing machines use one of two methods to sanitize:

  1. Hot water
  2. Chemical sanitizer

If your dish washing machine uses hot water to sanitize, you need to check that the correct temperature is being reached. Most have a built-in thermometer and temperature display, but if you’re unsure how to check, refer to the user manual or contact the manufacturer.

As a general rule, for hot water sanitizing the temperature must reach 82°C / 180°F for a minimum of 10 seconds.

If your machine uses a chemical sanitizer, you need to check that the concentration is correct and that the water temperature reaches at least 24°C / 75°F for 20 seconds or longer.

Temperature requirements vary between jurisdictions so always check specific requirements with your local authorities.

Step 4. Stock Supplies

During a pandemic, the general public puts a greater emphasis on health and hygiene, both at home and at work. This can mean that:

  • your employees and customers use supplies faster than normal
  • your regular supplier may have issues meeting demand

Consider building up a stock of supplies to see you through the outbreak, or at a minimum talk to your supplier about lead times so you can be sure not to run out of essential items.

As well as cleaning and sanitizing products, consider stocking up on garbage bags, dish wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap and anything else that may be in high demand during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Step 5. Review Your Food Safety Procedures

Your Food Safety Plan contains details of all the food safety procedures in your business. Review these procedures and consider what needs to be changed or added during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Other common food safety procedures to reconsider include:

  • Extra checks on deliveries:
    • Ensure your suppliers have effective coronavirus control procedures in place.
    • Perform thorough checks on all supplies.
    • Consider whether you want to discard packaging before bringing items onto your premises.
  • Temperature controls:
    • At this stage, the impact of temperature on SARS-CoV-2 is unknown.
    • However, ensuring food spends a minimal amount of time in the Temperature Danger Zone ( 4°C - 60°C / 40°F - 140°F) is always a good idea.
  • Employee clothing requirements:
    • Stricter requirements about changing into workwear at the workplace minimizes the risk of coronavirus being introduced from outside.
    • Enforcing workplace-only footwear is also recommended.
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as disposable gloves, masks and aprons should also be considered if you don’t already use these.

Once you’ve evaluated the changes that you need to make to your Food Safety Plan, document thoroughly and communicate to everyone on your team.