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Ensuring food safety in the ongoing coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic


1 Member of the Medical Education Unit and Institute Research Council, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed to be University, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet District, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed to be University, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet District, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission09-Apr-2020
Date of Decision10-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance23-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava,
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (SBV) - Deemed to be University, Tiruporur - Guduvancherry Main Road, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpaet District - 603108, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjdrdypu.mjdrdypu_164_20

  Abstract 


The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted all sectors and like all the sectors, even the food industry is finding it tough to cope up with the challenges linked to the novel viral infection. The available evidence suggests that it is highly unlikely for people to acquire infection from food items or packaged foods, and despite the isolation of the genetic material from the stool samples of infected patients, no reports have surfaced suggesting fecal-oral transmission. In these difficult times, it is expected that the food industry should ensure maintenance of good hygiene practices, adequate water supply-sanitation-hygiene facilities, demarcation of processing areas, promotion of personal hygiene, and ensuring safe storage, distribution and transport of food commodities. In conclusion, in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, it is very essential that the integrity of the food chain is maintained and all measures are taken in food industries to prevent the exposure as well as the possibility of transmission of virus.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, Food safety, World Health Organization



How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS. Ensuring food safety in the ongoing coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [Epub ahead of print] [cited 2021 May 10]. Available from: https://www.mjdrdypv.org/preprintarticle.asp?id=309331




  Introduction Top


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19) pandemic has impacted all sectors, and like all the sectors, even the food industry is finding it tough to cope up with the challenges linked to the novel viral infection.[1] It is important to note that the global caseload has increased to 1,436,198 cases, while the infection has also accounted for the lives of 85,522 people since the start of the outbreak.[2] Even though, the European region and the American region have been hit hardest by the disease at present, none of the regions, nations, communities, or individuals are immune to the infection, as evidenced by the fact that the disease has been reported in 212 nations and territories.[2] It is anticipated that the disease is expected to rise further in the coming days and months. If appropriate measures are not taken, we all might be facing the onset of communitybased transmission in different nations, and the overall scenario can become even more challenging.

In Nanjing city, a family cluster of 11 patients was reported, wherein the index case traveled to Nanjing and in the process changed trains in Wuhan. On returning, he stayed with her 3 family members and had dinner with another 8 relatives, and all of them were diagnosed with the infection.[3] To mount an effective response and to simultaneously avoid excessive caseload on the health systems, most of the nations have imposed restrictions on the movement of people, closure of educational institutions, promotion of work from home, etc., with an intention to reduce the risk of transmission of the infection. However, the same opportunity is not very much available for the people who are being employed in the food industry, and they are not only expected to discharge their assigned roles but also to ensure that the entire process of food production and supply chain is sustained healthy.[1] In these difficult times, it is expected that the food industry should ensure the maintenance of good hygiene practices, adequate water supply–sanitation–hygiene facilities, demarcation of processing areas, promotion of personal hygiene, and safe storage, distribution, and transport of food commodities.[1],[4],6]

Covid-19 and food safety

The available evidence suggests that it is highly unlikely for people to acquire infection from food items or packaged foods, and despite the isolation of the genetic material from the stool samples of infected patients, no reports have surfaced suggesting fecal–oral transmission.[1] Nevertheless, it is extremely important for the food industry to reinforce personal hygiene and sensitize the staff about the principles of maintaining food hygiene, which will neutralize the chances of contamination of food surfaces or packaging substance with the causative virus.[1] It is important to understand that personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves are an effective mode to prevent the transmission of the virus, but their effectiveness can be ensured only when they are used in the recommended way and in association with the practice of frequent handwashing.[5] Moreover, the practice of physical distancing is also bound to interrupt the chain of transmission.[1],[4]

Food workers and covid-19

From the perspective of food workers, it is important that they should be made aware about the symptoms of the disease and thus should inform to their employers telephonically (if symptomatic) and not to come to work, as there is a definite possibility to introduce the virus to the food items or to other colleagues either by close contact or by the surfaces touched by them in the workplace. All the food workers should be instructed to practice hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, avoiding close contact with symptomatic persons, and periodic disinfection of the work surfaces or touched areas.[1],[4],[5] Although, the use of disposable gloves is a good practice, it should not be considered as an alternative to handwashing, and thus should be frequently changed and handwashing should be done whenever gloves are changed. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the employers to display diseaserelated information in various places and motivate the staff to seek medical attention at the earliest, if symptomatic.[1],[4],[5]

Symptomatic food workers: do's and don'ts

Once a food worker becomes symptomatic in the food premises, s/he should be isolated in an earmarked room and advised to adhere to all infection prevention and control measures. While arrangements are being made for their immediate transport to a hospital, other employees should maintain physical distancing and also use a mask. Further, the other employees should be monitored for the development of symptoms in the next 14 days. However, it is very crucial to have a return to work policy in the industry to allow a recovered person back to the workplace. In addition, all precautions (such as the use of sanitizer and disinfectant) should be taken by the food workers who are involved in the transport and delivery of food products. Even in the workplace, the number of staff can be reduced in the workplace and asked to come in rotation to minimize the possibility of disease transmission.[1],[6]


  Conclusion Top


In conclusion, in the fight against the COVID19 pandemic, it is very essential that the integrity of the food chain is maintained, and all measures are taken in food industries to prevent the exposure as well as the possibility of transmission of the virus.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for Food Businesses-Interim Guidance. Geneva: WHO Press; 2020. p. 1-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
World Health Organization. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report– 80; 2020. Available from: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200409-sitrep-80-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=1b685d64_4. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 10].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Huang R, Xia? J, Chen Y, Shan C, Wu C. A family cluster of SARS-CoV-2 infection involving 11 patients in Nanjing, China. Lancet Infect Dis 2020;pii: S1473-3099(20)30147-X. [Epub ahead of print].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Mahase E. Covid-19: UK starts social distancing after new model points to 260 000 potential deaths. BMJ 2020;368:M1089.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
World Health Organization. Recommendations to Member States to Improve hand Hygiene Practices to Help Prevent the Transmission of the COVID-19 Virus-Interim Guidance. Geneva: WHO Press; 2020. p. 1-2.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
World Health Organization, UNICEF. Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Waste Management for the COVID-19 Virus. Geneva: WHO Press; 2020. p. 1-4.  Back to cited text no. 6
    




 

 
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