Newsletter

COVID-19 Best Practices

Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic

FDA is sharing information about best practices to operate retail food stores, restaurants, and associated pick-up and delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic to safeguard workers and consumers.

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). This is not a comprehensive list.

Managing Employee Health

  • Instruct employees with symptoms associated with COVID-19 to report them to their supervisors. Instruct sick employees to stay home and follow the CDC’s guidelines or consult with the local health department for additional guidance.
  • If an employee is sick at work, send them home immediately. Clean and disinfect surfaces in their workspace. Others at the facility with close contact (for example, within 6 feet) of the employee during this time should be considered exposed.
  • Instruct employees who are well, but know they have been exposed to COVID-19, to notify their supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions.
  • Inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, while maintaining confidentiality.

 

Implement workplace controls to reduce transmission among employees:

Employers – Prescreen (for example, take temperature and assess symptoms prior to starting work).

Employers – Disinfect and clean work spaces and equipment, and consider more frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces.

Employees – Regularly self – monitor (for example take temperature and assess symptoms of coronavirus).

Employees – Wear a mask or face covering.

Employees – Practice social distancing and stay at least 6 feet from other people whenever possible.

 

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 doorknobs, 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 and correctly for later use—check temperatures of food 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 temperature danger zone (between 41℉ and 135℉) is minimized.

 

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 sanitizers and detergents.
  • 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. Communicate also with the charitable organization for their guidelines for donating food.

 

Managing Food Pick-up and Delivery

  • Observe established food safety practices for time/temperature 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, for example 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.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of high – touch surfaces such as countertops and touchpads and within the vehicle, by wiping down surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Make sure to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on use.
  • Establish designated pick – up zones for customers to help maintain social distancing,
  • Practice social distancing when delivering food, for example, 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 distances 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. Hot foods hot by ensuring insulated cases are properly functioning.
  • Keep foods separated to avoid cross contamination, for example, 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.

 

Please comply with state and local guidelines also regarding food safety and COVID-19.

For more information and updates, visit the sites below which provides additional information as needed.

 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/foodsafetyhttps://www.fda.gov/coronavirus

When To Wash Hands

Food handlers must wash their hands before preparing food or working with clean equipment and utensils. They must wash their hands before putting on single-use gloves.

Food handlers must wash their hands after the following activities:
Using the restroom.
Touching the body or clothing.
Coughing, sneezing, blowing nose, or using a handkerchief, or tissue.
Eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum or tobacco.
Handling soiled items.
Handling raw meat, seafood, or poultry.
Taking out garbage.
Handling service animals.
Handling chemicals that might affect food safety.
Changing tasks (before beginning new task).
Leaving or returning to the kitchen/prep area.
Handling money.
Using electronic devices.
Touching anything else that may contaminate hands, such as dirty equipment, work surfaces, or cloths.

Proper Hand Washing Procedures

To wash hands or prosthetic devices correctly, follow these steps. The whole process should take at least 20 seconds.

1. Wet hands and arms. Use running warm water.
2. Apply soap. Make sure there is enough soap to build up a good lather.
3. Scrub hands and arms vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Clean the finger tips, under
fingernails, and between fingers.
4. Rinse hands and arms thoroughly. Use running warm water.
5. Dry hands and arms. Use a single use paper towel or a hand dryer.

If you are not careful, you can contaminate your hands after washing them. Consider using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door when leaving the restroom.

Hand Antiseptics
Hand antiseptics, also called hand sanitizers, are liquids or gels that are used to lower the number of pathogens on skin. If used, they must comply with the Code of Federal Regulations and FDA standards. Hand sanitizers should only be used after handwashing. Wait for them to dry before you touch food or equipment.

Corona Virus

Corona Virus  What Can You Do?

What is COVID-19 Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, and believed to have initially spread from animals to humans, but now is spreading from person-to-person contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. Typically, respiratory viruses are most contagious when an individual is most symptomatic, but there have been reports of the virus spreading when the affected individual does not show any symptoms.


HOW IT SPREADS / SYMPTOMS
COVID – 19 Coronavirus Spreads:

• The virus primarily spreads via respiratory droplets Symptoms may appear in as few
produces when an infected person sneezes or coughs. as 2 days or as long as 14 days after
exposure:
• It spreads between people when are in close contact
(within about 6 feet) Fever, cough, shortness of breath. For people who are diagnosed as ill with COVID-19 please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when- sick.html

PREVENTION

Currently there is no vaccine for COVID-19. The best measure is to avoid in contact with the virus:
• Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol based hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol when water and soap are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay home if you’re sick.
• Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that have been touched (counters, doorknobs, toilets, phones, etc)
• Cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue and then immediately dispose of the tissue and wash hands for at least 20 seconds.
• It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed.
• The CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators (facemasks). www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirator-use-faq.html

MONITORING

Keeping Employees Safe: What to do if an employee shows flu-like symptoms.
• It is highly recommended that any employees who are showing flu-like symptoms should be excluded from the operation until they are symptom free.

Keeping Customers Safe : What to do if a customer shows flu like symptoms in the restaurant
According to the CDC, the spread of COVID-19 occurs when people are in close contact (less than 6 feet) with an
infected person. Some basic steps that could be taken care are:

• Provide the customer with additional napkins or tissues to use when they cough or sneeze.
• Make sure alcohol-based hand sanitizer is available for customers to use.
• Be sure to clean and sanitize any objects or surfaces that may have been touched.

Bodily Fluid Event: What to do if there is a bodily fluid event

If a customer or employee vomits or has diarrhea it is recommended (AT THIS TIME) that the operation follows protocols that are in place for Norovirus be used.

• Ensure the employee who is cleaning up the area is using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
• Segregate the area that has been contaminated.
• Dispose of any food that has been exposed.
• Ensure any utensils that might have been exposed are cleaned and sanitized.
• Frequently clean and sanitize the area including the floor, walls and objects contaminated by the incident.
• Properly dispose any of the equipment that was used to clean up the area.

 

For additional recommendations and resources, please visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus

10 Tips: Eating Foods Away from Home

10 Tips: Eating Foods Away from Home

Restaurants, convenience and grocery stores, or fast-food places offer a variety of options when eating out. But larger portions can make it easy to eat or drink too many calories. Larger helpings can also increase your intake of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Think about ways to make healthier choices when eating food away from home.

Consider your drink---Choose water, fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, and other drinks without added sugars to complement your meal.
Savor a salad ---Start your meal with a salad packed with vegetables to help you feel satisfied sooner. Ask for dressing on the side and use a small amount of it.
Share a main dish---Divide a main entrée between family and friends. Ask for small plates for everyone at the table.
Select from the sides ---Order a side dish or an appetizer-sized portion instead of a regular entrée. They’re usually served on smaller plates and in smaller amounts.
Pack your snack---Pack fruit, sliced vegetables, low- fat string cheese, or unsalted nuts to eat during road trips or long commutes. No need to stop for other food when these snacks are ready-to-eat.
Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables---Stir-fries, kabobs, or vegetarian menu items usually have more vegetables. Select fruits as a side dish or dessert.
Compare the calories, fat, and sodium ---Many menus now include nutrition information. Look for items that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. Check with your server if you don’t see them or the menu. You can also check the FDA website.
Pass on the buffet ---Have an item from the menu and avoid the “all you can eat” buffet. Steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes have fewer calories than foods that are fried in oil or cooked in butter.
Get your whole grains---Request 100% whole-wheat breads, rolls, and pasta when choosing sandwiches, burgers, or main dishes.
Quit the “clean your plate” club---Decide to save some for another meal. Take leftovers home in a container and chill in the refrigerator right away.

HOME FOOD SAFETY MYTHBUSTER

Over the years we have all heard advice related to food safety. Some of this advice rings true, while other guidance is just plain wrong. Our goal is to help you protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness. Hampton Roads Food Safety Company and the Partnership for Food Safety Education have information for consumers and educators that debunk common home food safety myths.

Bacteria that can cause illnesses grow rapidly in the“temperature danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Keeping a constant home refrigerator of 40°F is one of the most effective ways to reduce cases of listeriosis and other foodborne diseases. There are a lot of “myths” around temperature control, including people can know the temperature of their refrigerator without even measuring ! This year we are taking on consumer myths and ideas about the home refrigerator.

 fridge

Common Myth

I know my refrigerator is cold enough - I can feel it when I open it! Anyway, I have a dial to adjust the temperature.
Fact: Unless you have a thermometer built into your fingers , you need to use a thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is at or below 40°F. And that dial ? It is important , but it is not a thermometer. As many as 43% of home refrigerators have been found to be at temperatures above 40°F. So, those refrigerators are in the food safety “danger zone” where harmful bacteria can multiply and make you and your family sick. Slow the growth of bacteria by using a refrigerator thermometer to determine if your refrigerator is at 40°F, or below. And if it is not, adjust the temperature dial to make it colder. Then, use your refrigerator thermometer to measure again.

Healthy Guests: Happy Holidays

 

Healthy Guests: Happy Holidays

 

Safety Tips for Brilliant Buffets and Perfect Party Platters

A popular way to celebrate holidays or any party occasion is to invite friends and family to a buffet. However, this type of food service, where foods may be out for long periods leaves the door open for uninvited guests—bacteria that cause foodborne illness.  Here are some tips for a safe and brilliant buffet:

Keep Cold Foods Cold!

Foods on a buffet can be kept cold by placing food dishes in larger bowls of ice. For party trays purchasedat the supermarket, remove lid and fill lid with ice. Put the tray on top.

Rather than serve food from one larger platter, arrange food on several small platters.

Refrigerate platters of food until it is time to serve, and rotate food platters within two hours.

Follow the two hour rule!

Chill leftovers within two hours.  Keep the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below and use a refrigerator thermometer to check the temperature.

Keep Hot Foods Hot!

 

Hotfoods on a buffet can be kept hot with chafing dishes, crock pots, and warming trays and

should be at 140 degrees or warmer.

Eat leftovers within 3-4 days.

 

Reheat solid leftovers to 165 degrees, as measured by a food thermometer. Reheat liquid leftovers to a rolling boil.

 

 

Staying on the Path of Success in the Restaurant Industry

Operating a restaurant is more than just setting up shop and watching the people come in and spend money. You must consistently monitor your restaurant’s performance over time so that you can sustain a profitable business. You will need to evaluate how your restaurant does financially and how efficiently your operation runs. But numbers and charts don’t tell the whole story. Customer and employee feedback also provides a useful analysis of the state of your restaurant as well as changes in the current market.

Review Your Restaurant’s Finance
In any business, it’s important to review your finances regularly. If the numbers don’t seem right, you have to find out the discrepancy and resolve it. The accuracy of the final financial picture depends on how well you organize your sales and expense figures. It is essential to make a good habit of keeping your books updated and to address any errors or discrepancies when they appear. Also, analyze your sales history and cash flow.

Break Down the Sale of Menu Items
Aside from reviewing your restaurant in financial terms, you have to evaluate your operation’s efficiency and profitability. Not only do you need to keep track of how much money your business is generating, you should review which items are selling and which are not, and more importantly, how much are you profiting from each item. To do that, you have to break down your total sales according to the number of items sold.

Evaluate Your Inventory Efficiency
There are two factors to look at when evaluating how efficiently you are utilizing your inventory.
The first factor is your cost of sales, which is your actual food cost percentage. The second, which is related to your cost of sales, is your inventory turnover rate. Both of these factors can help you pin point where problems may lie if your bottom-line profit is not meeting your expectations.

Respond to Customer Feedback
Customer feedback can be positive or negative, and in either case, it can be a valuable source of information for you on improving your business. Don’t rely on your customers to approach you and let you know what they think. Make every effort to find out what they think and how you can respond. Getting feedback from comment cards, in person and via the internet are good tools.

Listen to Your Employees
Your employees may also provide some valuable feedback concerning the restaurant’s operation. Keep the lines of communication open with your staff, from your staff down to your bussers.

Take Notes on Restaurant Reviews
Restaurant reviews written or broadcast in local media can have a positive or negative effect on your business in the short run, but they aren’t going to make or break you. Take all reviews, positive or negative, in stride. If you are fortunate enough to receive a good review from a critic, don’t rest on your laurels just yet.