Pre-Harvest Food Safety: Coronavirus
The following information has been provided by Zespri Preharvest and was distributed to industry stakeholders via email on 12.03.2020
Zespri is continuing to monitor the rapidly changing Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely and is adopting a precautionary approach. Our focus remains the health and welfare of our people and we have established a range of processes to manage this year’s harvest and fruit going to market. While there’s nothing to suggest people will contract COVID-19 through food, Zespri will continue to follow official advice as it becomes available.
MPI have published guidance on COVID-19 and food safety on their website which is updated regularly. The advice enforces the need for food producers to follow good personal hygiene practices. Zespri encourages you to keep up to date with official food safety advice which can be found at https://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/responding/alerts/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-food-safety/.
COVID–19 IS A NOTIFIABLE DISEASE
It is important to educate workers and those supervising them about dealing with a potential notifiable disease. If someone is feeling unwell or if they have an unwell family member or someone that they have been in close contact with has been unwell, they should firstly seek medical advice from their health practitioner. In addition to this, they must notify their manager.
If COVID-19 IS SUSPECTED, TAKE THE FOLLOWING STEPS:
- Seek medical advice
- Notify your manager
- Remove yourself from the workplace
- Isolate yourself
- Follow the directions of your health official
COVID-19 IS A NOTIFIABLE DISEASE
- Anyone that is diagnosed with a notifiable disease is to remain away from work until given full clearance by a public health official
- Staff must follow all instructions by the local District Health Board (DHB) under instruction by the Ministry of Health (MoH) which may include isolation
- Notify your post-harvest operator so they are aware that fruit may have been handled by the sick worker. The post-harvest operator will notify Zespri who will decide what actions, if any, are required to manage fruit.
If a worker is confirmed positive for a notifiable disease, the DHB will investigate to determine the extent of possible spread to other people and make decisions to manage the situation, including initiation of traceback and specifying stand down periods.
Hand washing facilities must be provided for staff on orchard. Water used for hand washing shall at all times meet the microbial standard for drinking water. In the event that water does not meet drinking water standards, alcohol-based sanitisers (that meet Zespri standards) may be used after washing hands with soap and water as an interim measure. Hand washing stations shall be provided inside or close to toilet facilities.
Please remind all staff of the importance of washing their hands before handling fruit and after the following:
- Toilet use
- Touching their face
- Whenever touching a non/food surface or item
- Wet your hands under clean running water
- Put soap on your hands and wash for 20 seconds
- Rub hands together until the soap makes bubbles
- Rub on both sides of both hands and in between fingers and thumbs
- Rinse all the soap off under clean running water
- Dry your hands all over for 20 seconds using a single use paper towel
USE OF SOAP SANITISERS
While many people are using sanitisers as a personal hygiene option, official information indicates that hand washing as outlined above is enough to maintain an adequate level of hygiene. The use of sanitisers is not an alternative to good hand washing practices. if sanitisers are used they must be used as well as the hand washing practices referred to above. They should not be used as a first line of defence.
Where use is necessary, sanitisers must not result in the transfer of residues to fruit and must not contain any additives (e.g. perfumes, oils, DDAC and BAC) and should contain minimum of 70% alcohol.
For further guidance please refer to the food safety section of the Zespri grower manual here.
Remember to avoid touching the face, be aware of respiratory hygiene (covering your mouth whenever sneezing or coughing) and avoiding contact with anyone showing signs of illness.
It is recommended that all areas that staff are in regular contact with, such as lunchrooms or toilets shall be cleaned and sanitised on a regular basis as a preventative measure. This includes all things that staff come into contact with such as jugs, fridges, ovens, tables and door handles.
When selecting cleaners and sanitisers the operator shall:
- Determine the product is suitable for purpose
- The MPI Approval Criteria may be used to determine acceptability
- Retain records to demonstrate acceptability
- Ensure the products are “Food Grade” and that they do not contain QACs or list DDAC or BAC as active ingredients
- Follow the instructions for use to ensure there is not risk of transfer to residues to fruit note: Most cleaning compounds require a wash down and drying period after cleaning
- Alcohol based (minimum 70%) hand sanitisers are acceptable
- Hand washing soap should be non-perfumed and suitable for use in a food production areas
The inclusion of additional questions at worker inductions around where they have been in the past 14 days can be used as a means of determining if they could be carrying the virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) publish a daily update detailing information as they have it, such as high-risk countries and travel alerts. For more information on COVID-19 please refer to following link: World Health Organisation Website.
Along with ensuring that all staff are trained in good hygiene practices and, their obligations around notification of illness, there are additional measures that employers can take such as temperature checking all staff at the start of each shift and monitoring for early signs of high temperatures.
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