Covid-19: Why you should practice food safety at home

There’s no evidence that covid-19 can be transmitted by food, but it’s important to take every precaution

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Now, more than ever before, health advisors are overwhelming us with advice about something we’ve been told by our mothers since childhood – wash your hands and wash your fresh fruit and veg before you eat them.

Although there’s no evidence suggesting that food is a source of covid-19 or that it can be transmitted through the consumption of food, taking extra precaution has never been a bad idea, particularly when preparing or eating fresh food at home.

Mzansi’s largest fresh produce sales organisation, RSA Group, advises food handlers to wash their fresh produce thoroughly before cooking or consuming it. CEO Jaco Oosthuizen says, “it’s important to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, before and after shopping and handling packaging as per global World Health Organisation guidelines.”

Wash your hands; it’s good practice

Professor Lucia Anelich, owner of Anelich Consulting, a food safety consulting and training business, agrees that there’s no evidence of the virus being  transmitted through food or food packaging, but says it is wise to always practice good hygiene.

Sharing advice on how to protect yourself in the kitchen, Anelich says, “It’s good practice to wash hands frequently. Good hygiene practices that one should normally follow in the kitchen work extremely well under all circumstances. Wash hands with soap and water frequently, before and after many activities, for at least 20 seconds (sing ‘happy birthday’ twice).”

Professor Anelich has developed an infographic on ‘advice for food workers’ in English and Zulu that can be found on her website.

International food safety expert, Dr Lucia Anelich
International food safety expert, Dr Lucia Anelich

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The international food safety expert also warns that proper cleaning of equipment and surfaces in the kitchen is important. Apart from hot water and household detergents that work well, Anelich says, if desired, one could sanitise surfaces after cleaning with a 0.1% solution of household bleach. “It’s better to use tissue or paper towels that are used once and can be discarded immediately into a dustbin,” Anelich explains.

Equipment like chopping boards and knives, Anelich says, can be washed using hot water and soap. In addition, she recommends leaving equipment, utensils, glassware and crockery to air-dry.

“It’s important to understand that the virus is controllable, provided we all work together and take responsibility for our actions. Follow hygienic behavior, social distancing and arm yourself with the right information,” Anelich emphasises.

Keep essential food workers safe and healthy

In their interim guidance report on the coronavirus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reiterates why it is important to be mindful of hygienic practices, especially where food industry personnel is concerned.

This while a large number of essential workers in Mzansi’s agricultural space are still battling to gain access to protective gear and products.

In the report WHO says, “keeping all workers in the food production and supply chains healthy and safe is critical to surviving the current pandemic.”

The organisation further explains that it’s essential that the movement of food along the food supply chain is maintained and that all stakeholders along the chain need to contribute. “This is also required to maintain trust and consumer confidence in the safety and availability of food,” the report stipulates.

Wash those veggies and fresh fruits, thoroughly

Mzansi’s largest fresh produce sales organisation, RSA Group, has done exactly that. According the group CEO, Jaco Oosthuizen, they have focused on tightening their already strict hygiene standards to ensure best practices throughout the value chain.

Jaco Oosthuizen, CEO of RSA Group.
Jaco Oosthuizen, CEO of RSA Group.

To further minimise the risk of the virus surviving on surfaces, Oosthuizen says they are also constantly ensuring that everywhere they operate within the market environment is cleaned and sanitised frequently.

“We’ve made sure that all our people follow a strict set of personal safety standards and protocols that minimise the chance of person to person transmission while we work,” Oosthuizen adds.

Oosthuizen stated in a press release that they are running ongoing hygiene protocols which provide regular training and guidance for all staff. “We play a huge role in national food security and we’re very conscious of our duty as a business to meet Pres. Ramaphosa’s call for national action.”

Oosthuizen advises food handlers to wash their fresh produce thoroughly before cooking or consuming it. He also advises people to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly, before and after shopping and handling packaging as per global WHO guidelines.

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