Guidance for larger food operations | COVID-19

Food Businesses have developed comprehensive systems for producing safe food. Use these systems to manage the current situation and incorporate new issues to address COVID-19 specifically. Don’t take your eye off the ball on the essential factors e.g. allergens. These tips have been developed to highlight some of the issues to consider.

Business Continuity

  • Keeping business going: Assess what can be done remotely and what must be done on-site Identify critical roles and where possible replicate competencies.
  • Adapt and survive: Self-isolation or sickness may mean an influx of temporary staff and increased churn rates – use effective training for temporary staff.
  • Use your existing systems to manage risk and change effectively: Food Safety Management System, Food Safety Culture, Risk assessments, change protocols, food safety and Health and Safety.

New Things to Consider

  • Protect your employees:  Stay physically safe if remote working is required; review safe working systems. Staff sickness – use return to work following sickness protocols but adapt them for COVID-19 refer to WHO for isolation and timing. Review regularly when advice is updated from Government and/or WHO
  • Keep your employees’ family safe: Maintain/set up hygiene junctions entering and leaving work.
  • Social Distancing may not work in the production environment: different ways of working may have to be introduced, assume everyone is a symptomless carrier. Use PPE as required and put in place effective robing and disrobing protocols. 
  • Minimising cross-contamination: Compartmentalizing workforce into discrete zones will help minimise spread across zones risks if staff contract COVID-19. Colour coded staff zoning procedures – hairnets/hats, aprons, armbands may be useful visual aids. Treat as if it’s an allergen, each zone a fresh allergen.
  • Control visitors: Audits and visitors – avoid unless absolutely essential as staff shortages may be occurring, particularly due to site contamination risk.

Don’t Forget

  • Don’t forget allergens: You may have to change suppliers due to material supply disruption. The same supplier may supply the same ingredient, but from a different site – review the allergen profile for the new site or supplier
  • Don’t forget food fraud and counterfeiting. Use TACCP/VACCP to review as required?
  • Don’t forget food safety: A reduction in Stock Keeping Units could lead to increased Raw Materials demand, cleaning protocols, process intermediates, equipment/containers. Beware long production runs between cleans leading to a build-up of slow grow/biofilm-producing pathogens - Listeria, Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Clostridium, and their spoilage variants, and spoilers like yeasts, moulds, Pseudomonas and lactics. Introduce break changes in sanitary protocols as identified by risk assessment.

COVID-19 Cleaning and Sanitation

Cleaning and disinfection are as important for the control of viruses as for other forms of food contamination and the same basic principles must be followed. 
  • Always clean surfaces (remove debris and dirt) prior to the application of a suitable disinfectant 
  • Bear in mind that some classes of disinfectant chemical may need rinsing after application prior to the surface coming into contact with food.  
  • With specific regard to the control of novel Coronavirus, common touchpoints must also be risk assessed and considered as well as food contact surfaces.

See these guides for further practical advice: 

Trusted Resources Links

General GMP Advice 

Food Safety Certification

CIEH Guidance | www.cieh.org

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IFST COVID-19 Knowledge Hub

This section is part of our COVID-19 Knowledge Hub. IFST have created a COVID-19 Knowledge Hub to consolidate advice, practical guidance and links to resources to support individuals, smaller food businesses and larger food operations.  Find out more here.