FSAI issues further guidelines for food workers

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has issued further guidelines for those who work with open food, such as deli counters and similar food services.

The FSAI says that normal fitness-to-work procedures operated in food businesses should ensure that infected workers do not handle food.

However, the authority stresses that: “Staff should not work if they have any symptoms of Covid-19.”

It is possible that infected workers could introduce the virus to food produce they are working with, or onto surfaces that food would come into contact with.

For that reason, food workers will need to “strictly follow good personal hygiene practices” as well as practicing social distancing.

These steps, as well as thorough hand-washing, are important to avoid cross-contamination between raw or undercooked foods; and cooked or ready-to-eat foods in the kitchen.

Where these proper hygiene and hand-washing practices are in place, it should not be necessary for food workers to wear gloves.

If food workers do choose to wear gloves, they must be changed frequently (before and after preparing food) and hands must be washed between glove changes and after gloves are removed, the FSAI outlines.

Gloves must also be changed after carrying out other activities besides handling food, such as opening or closing doors; emptying bins; handling money; etc.

Wearing gloves does have the potential to allow bacteria to build up on the surface of the hands – due to the warn, moist environment – so hand-washing is still “extremely important”, even if gloves are worn.

Food workers should even wash their hands while wearing gloves, to prevent a buildup of bacteria on them.

There is currently little scientific evidence related to how long the Covid-19 virus can survive on the surfaces of food. Evidence from similar viruses suggest that some foods do not allow viruses to survive at all, but some do.

Frequent washing and sanitising of surfaces and utensils that food will come into contact with is also necessary, the FSAI stresses.