Best Practices for Food Services During COVID-19

Best Practices for Food Services During COVID-19

The FDA recently held a call to discuss and set the best practices for food services during COVID-19. Listen to a recording of the call below. This addresses key considerations for how foods offered at retail can be safely handled and delivered to the public, as well as key best practices for employee health, cleaning and sanitizing, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Reposted from FDA.gov. Download summary version (infographic) HERE.

Managing Employee Health (Including Contracted Workers)

Personal Hygiene for Employees

  • Emphasize effective hand hygiene including washing hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and avoid working with unwrapped or exposed foods. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Use gloves to avoid direct bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.
  • Before preparing or eating food, always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash hands after.

Managing Operations in a Foodservice Establishment or Retail Food Store

Continue to follow established food safety protocols and best practices for retail food establishments and important COVID-19 recommendations, including the following:   

  • Follow the 4 key steps to food safety: Always — Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
  • Wash, rinse, and sanitize food contact surfaces dishware, utensils, food preparation surfaces, and beverage equipment after use.
  • Frequently disinfect surfaces repeatedly touched by employees or customers such as door knobs, equipment handles, check-out counters, and grocery cart handles, etc.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect floors, counters, and other facility access areas using EPA-registered disinfectants.
  • Prepare and use sanitizers according to label instructions.  
  • When changing your normal food preparation procedures, service, delivery functions, or making staffing changes, apply procedures that ensure:
    • Cooked foods reach the proper internal temperatures prior to service or cooling.
    • Hot foods are cooled rapidly for later use – check temperatures of foods being cooled in refrigerators or by rapid cooling techniques such as ice baths and cooling wands.
    • The time foods being stored, displayed, or delivered are held in the danger zone (between 41°F and 135°F) is minimized.
    • Proper training for food employees with new or altered duties and that they apply the training according to established procedures.
  • Help customers maintain good infection control and social distancing by:
    • Discontinuing operations, such as salad bars, buffets, and beverage service stations that require customers to use common utensils or dispensers.   
    • Finding ways to encourage spacing between customers while in line for service or check out in accordance with the applicable State or local requirements.
    • Discouraging customers from bringing pets — except service animals — into stores or waiting areas.
  • Continue to use sanitizers and disinfectants for their designed purposes.
  • Verify that your ware-washing machines are operating at the required wash and rinse temperatures and with the appropriate detergents and sanitizers.
  • Remember that hot water can be used in place of chemicals to sanitize equipment and utensils in manual ware-washing machines.
  • If you donate food to food recovery or charitable organizations, check for State and local guidelines. You can also find further information at Conference for Food ProtectionExternal Link Disclaimer.

Managing Food Pick-Up and Delivery

  • Observe established food safety practices for time/temp control, preventing cross contamination, cleaning hands, no sick workers, and storage of food, etc.
  • Have employees wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing, or after touching high touch surfaces, e.g., doorknobs, and doorbells.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.  See, CDC’s How to Protect Yourself & Others.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces such as counter tops and touch pads and within the vehicle, by wiping down surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
    • Make sure to read the label and follow manufacturer’s instructions on use.
  • Establish designated pick-up zones for customers to help maintain social distancing.
  • Practice social distancing when delivering food, e.g., offering “no touch” deliveries and sending text alerts or calling when deliveries have arrived.
  • Conduct an evaluation of your facility to identify and apply operational changes in order to maintain social distancing if offering take-out/carry-out option by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others, when possible.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by storing in appropriate transport vessels.
    • Keep cold foods cold by keeping enough coolant materials, e.g., gel packs.
    • Keep hot foods hot by ensuring insulated cases are properly functioning.
  • Keep foods separated to avoid cross contamination, e.g., keeping raw foods separated from cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Ensure that any wrapping and packaging used for food transport is done so that contamination of the food is prevented.
  • Routinely clean and sanitize coolers and insulated bags used to deliver foods.
Guidance for Businesses on “Stay Safe, Stay Home”

Guidance for Businesses on “Stay Safe, Stay Home”

Governor Lamont wants Connecticut residents to “Stay Safe, Stay Home.” On March 23, all non-essential workers statewide were directed to work from home, and non-essential businesses to suspend in-person business activities. On April 1, the order was updated with “Safe Store Rules” for essential businesses. Find answers to FAQs below.

“Mi mensaje a Connecticut es simple: #MantenteSeguro #QuédateEnCasa. Cuantas más personas se queden en casa, podemos #AcoplarLaCurva y permitir que nuestro sistema de atención médica se mantenga por delante del aumento. Le prometo que todos los días el estado de Connecticut está trabajando para hacer todo lo posible para mantenerlo a usted y a sus familias a salvo.”

“My message to Connecticut is simple: #StaySafe #StayHome. The more people staying at home, we can #FlattenTheCurve and allow our healthcare system to stay ahead of the increase. I promise you that the state of Connecticut is working every day to do everything possible to keep you and your families safe.”

Who is exempt?

Essential Businesses or Nonprofits designated HERE. In summary, “essential” industries include Healthcare and Public Health Operations, Infrastructure, Manufacturing, Food and Agriculture, Supply Chains, Childcare Services, Homeless Services, Public Safety and Defense, Construction, Sanitation, Technology Support, and certain Retail and Professional Services, such as grocery stores, hardware stores, banks, and auto repair shops. If you believe your business is essential, but it is not listed, you may apply for designation as an Essential Business.

Can exempt status be taken away?

Yes. Nothing in this guidance shall be used to modify any future Executive Order that separately and specifically addresses a particular business or activity, and businesses must comply with any such orders unless and until they are modified or terminated separately. This situation is evolving and orders will be issued based on the latest recommendations for public health and civil preparedness emergency. Sign up for the CT Alert System.

I am non-exempt, how do I comply?

To the maximum extent possible, implement any telecommuting or work from home procedures that you can safely employ. Reduce the on-site workforce at each business location by 100% from pre-state of emergency declaration employment levels. Non-essential retailers may be staffed on-site, provided that they may only offer remote ordering (e.g. phone, internet, mail, dropbox) and curb-side pick-up or delivery and 2) Non-essential businesses and nonprofits may be staffed or allow third parties on-site (to the minimum extent necessary) to provide security, maintenance, and receipt of mail and packages.

I am exempt, how do I keep customers and employees safe?

Effective April 3, every retail establishment in the state is required to take additional protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 between and among customers, employees, and other persons such as delivery drivers and maintenance people. 

Safe Stores Rules

Occupancy, store layout, and managing customer flow

  • Occupancy capped at 50% of store capacity. At entrance, staff will maintain a count of the number of customers entering and exiting stores.
  • Clearly mark 6’ spacing in lines on floor at checkout lines and other high-traffic areas and, as much as practicable, provide ways to encourage 6’ spacing in lines outside the store.
  • Post conspicuous signage and floor markings to direct customers and limit bottlenecks and/or encourage spacing and flow in high-density areas.
  • Have aisles be one-way in stores where practicable to maximize spacing between customers. Identify the one-way aisles with conspicuous signage and/or floor markings.
  • Maximize space between customers and employees at checkout lines, including, but not limited to, only using every other checkout line, where and when possible.
  • Install Plexiglas shields to separate employees from customers at checkout lines and other areas in the store where practicable.

General

  • Communicate with customers through in store signage, and public service announcements and advertisements, there should only be one person per household during shopping trips, whenever possible.
  • Discontinue all self-serve foods (e.g., salad bar, olive bar) and product sampling.
  • Allow “touchless” credit card transactions. If not possible, sanitize credit card machines (including pen) regularly and consistently.
  • Cart and basket handles sanitized between uses (by staff).
  • Wherever possible, employees will wear gloves and face masks at all times that they are interacting with customers and/or handling products.

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