Increased Sanitization Due to COVID-19: What Are the Risks?

It is essential that food businesses take proper measures to reduce the risks that come with additional sanitation methods.
It is essential that food businesses take proper measures to reduce the risks that come with additional sanitation methods.

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19, are extremely contagious and infecting people around the world at a rapid rate. Due to the virus’ ability to easily spread between humans, food businesses are being strongly advised to increase cleaning and sanitizing measures within the premises in order to reduced the possibility of COVID-19 spreading. While increasing the amount of cleaning and sanitizing is essential during the pandemic, it is also essential that food businesses take proper measures to reduce the risks that come with additional sanitation methods.

What does increased cleaning and sanitizing mean?

Increasing your cleaning and sanitizing within the premises means you first must update your cleaning and sanitizing schedule. The schedule should be updated to include a higher frequency of both cleaning and sanitizing methods.

You also need to take the time now to identify which items are touched frequently and are located in high traffic areas. These are items that are normally cleaned but not sanitized; they must be added to your cleaning and sanitizing schedule immediately.

Examples of items that need to be added to your cleaning and sanitizing schedule include:

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

These are just a few examples of items that you should add to your schedule. The items will vary based on the food business and it is up to each food business to ensure a complete list is identified and the schedule is updated. Don’t forget to include details of who will perform these tasks and the frequency in which they need to be performed.

What are the risks?

Cleaning and sanitizing in a food business must always be conducted with extreme care and caution. This is because the chemicals used in both cleaning and sanitizing can be dangerous to staff and to customers. When cleaning and sanitizing is increased dramatically within a food business, as is the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, the risks can go up.

Risks to staff

Staff may be worried about contracting COVID-19 and let the concern distract them from following proper cleaning and sanitizing protocols. Just because the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing must increase, does not mean that the jobs should be rushed. Rushing through these methods means that staff could expose themselves or other staff members to dangerous chemicals. Staff should be instructed to conduct the cleaning and sanitizing of items throughout the business thoroughly and safely — and to follow the rules precisely.

Risks to customers

Staff that work directly with food, particularly the kitchen staff, need to be extremely cautious when implementing the new cleaning and sanitizing schedule. Cleaning and sanitizing standards are essential to not only keeping COVID-19 from spreading, but for upholding food safety standards within the business. Food handlers need to be aware of when kitchen items are cleaned and sanitized as there is a risk that chemical contamination of food could occur if proper precautions are not taken. More cleaners and sanitizers being used throughout the food business, especially the kitchen, must be acknowledged to keep staff and customers safe.

What is chemical contamination of food?

Chemical contamination of food occurs when chemicals, such as cleaners or sanitizers, come into contact with food and contaminate it. If a food that is chemically contaminated is served to customers, they can become extremely ill after consuming the contaminated food. A food-borne illness from chemical contamination is not what any food business wants to have happen, especially during such a difficult time for the food industry.

Keep safety top-of-mind

In order to prevent staff or customers from becoming ill from chemical exposure, it is vital that everyone in the food business is properly trained. Train your staff on the new cleaning and santizing schedule and the protocols that they need to follow. Ensure that proper communication is being achieved so that everyone knows what is being cleaned and sanitized, and when. You can also consider COVID-19 specific training such as the COVIDSafe Professional program. The COVIDSafe program involves online lessons, tools and physical resources that help to keep your food business safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19.