Posted on: 07 August 2020

Food manufacturing whilst COVID-19 is still a threat

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food manufacturers were one of the businesses that were still working to keep the people of the UK fed. As lockdown measures continue to relax to allow other businesses to reopen, food manufacturers must stay just as vigilant as they were when the lockdown first began.

Take a look at some of the guidance below to ensure your food manufacturing business is COVID secure.

Risk assessments and reviews

When the pandemic first broke out, you should have added COVID-19 measures, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing, into your risk assessments to help keep anyone on your premises safe.

As COVID-19 measures relax, you should review your risk assessment to reflect the guidance that the government releases as the pandemic continues to develop.

Food manufacturers are required to implement hygiene measures that are based on principles from Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). These principles should complement the risk controls that you have put into place in your risk assessment, but you will need to record your HACCP changes to local food authorities or the Food Standards Agency.

Precautions for your staff

The health of people working for you is paramount to ensure the safety of the food that you are producing. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that your staff are healthy enough to be working around food, especially as COVID-19 spreads easily both in the air and on surfaces.

Any employee that may be showing symptoms of COVID-19 should follow the government guidance by staying at home and isolating for 14 days.

Whilst the government announced that they will be giving employers the freedom to decide whether or not employees should continue to work from home, if an employee has been able to work from home, this is the safest place that they can work for the foreseeable future.

Safety tips for your staff include:

  • Working back to back or side to side instead of face to face.
  • Increase cleaning efforts for both surfaces and hands.
  • Have staff on the same shifts together so that the amount of people who are working together is reduced.

Any food-handling employees are required to have training, so make sure that any employees are up to date on any changes to procedures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. You should also establish or update your policies on who is allowed to work, and when, and make sure that employees know this policy.

Precautions during production

To ensure safety at every stage of the manufacturing process, including management of supplies, implement some or all of the following precautions.

Stock control

Check all stock for damage and check temperature records to ensure that food is safe for production, disposing of any compromised food items.

 Any raw materials or expired ingredients should be disposed of in a designated area so that it doesn’t become reintroduced into the production cycle.

Raw material and ingredient availability  

Since the pandemic began, food suppliers have experienced a range of different issues, leading to some food shortages, especially for long-lasting items such as flour.

Check that your suppliers can continue to provide you with the products that you need to be able to create your product to the usual standard. If you need to find a new supplier, give them a thorough review to ensure that they can meet the standard that you need. You should also review your allergen management and labelling if you find a new supplier.

Cleaning edible items

Food items that you produce should be cleaned before being shipped away. Thorough cleaning will ensure that any coronavirus droplets have been removed from items that others will be touching.

Part of the cleaning process is ensuring that you have enough cleaning materials to make the process effective, such as cleaning chemicals and disposable gloves.

Machinery management

If you have been required to stop operations for an extended period during the pandemic, you will need to conduct a review of your machinery to make sure that they are safe to continue operation.

Your review should include a check that the machine is still fit for purpose, and once that has been established, the machinery should be thoroughly cleaned. If more than one person uses the machine, it should also be cleaned after every use to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE has played a huge role in keeping workers in the UK safe during the pandemic but is also equally as important to stop food contamination. Take a look at some of the different types of PPE below and how it can keep food uncontaminated during the production process

Gloves

Gloves aren’t a legal requirement for food handling or as coronavirus prevention, but they will offer protection to those who choose to wear them.

Gloves should not be substituted for proper hand hygiene, and gloves should never be reused. Once they have been removed for someone to wash their hands, a new pair should be used. You should also remind your team of the importance of not touching their face when wearing gloves.

Face masks

Face masks are a vital part of stopping the spread of COVID-19. They can trap airborne coronavirus droplets stopping the virus from entering the body.

As of 24th July, face masks are now a legal requirement for customers in a retail environment, so perhaps update your COVID-19 policies to reflect the importance of face masks and how they can help stop the spread of the virus.

If any member of your team is commuting to work using public transport, put a policy in place to dispose of their face mask correctly on arrival.

Face coverings

Face covering doesn’t have to mean face masks. Plastic visors can be used to protect the wearer from droplets that may have come from a sneeze or cough.

A visor might not be the most appropriate piece of PPE for manufacturing as it can cause complications with communication or vision, and shouldn’t be used as a substitution for a face mask as it is not as effective at stopping the virus droplets from being inhaled.

More COVID-19 business guides

If you are currently preparing to re-open your business following lockdown, you may also be interested in these guides:

For further COVID-19 business insight, take a look at our Coronavirus Information Page.

Business insurance with Premierline

It’s important to make sure that you have the right manufacturing insurance in place to protect the business that you have built.

Every business is different and has its own business insurance needs. We work with some of the UK’s most well-known insurers to make sure that you are getting the right insurance cover for your business. If you are looking for further COVID-19 business insight, take a look at our Coronavirus Information Page.

Source: Zywave inc. – Risk Insights: Food Manufacturing Guidance During COVID-19

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