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Tips for Food Service Employees, Store Clerks During COVID-19

Filed in Newsroom 3/16/20 at 3:49 pm     581

We’ve all heard it on TV, radio, social media… everywhere:  Wash your hands!  Cover your cough and sneeze! Don’t touch your face (especially your eyes, nose and mouth)! 

These are the Big Three and because it can’t be said enough:   

WASH YOUR HANDS!     

COVER YOUR COUGH AND SNEEZE!   

KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM YOUR FACE! 

 The facts:   

  • COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs 

  • It spreads between people who are in close contact-within about 6 feet. 

  • The virus can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces 

The good news: 

  • There is no evidence that a food service employee can transmit the virus through food when proper food handling procedures are followed, and good hygiene is practiced.  

  • There is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19 (but food packaging surfaces are surfaces and should be treated as such).  

  • There is nothing to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19. 

  • There have also been no reported cases and no evidence of any transmission of the virus related to imported goods. 

Remember: Good hygiene is always the best prevention! 

Maintaining existing good habits is the way to go! 

While common sense in everyday practices is always a good idea, being in the food service industry presents a unique set of challenges and requires some extra attention. 

What can your establishment do to minimize risk? 

Remember there is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing.  Cleaning is removing visible debris; sanitizing reduces pathogens on the surface.  Before sanitizing wash and rinse the surface to clean it of visible debris.  Once clean, sanitize the surface using a sanitizing solution.  According to the CDC for disinfection, properly diluted bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. Additional information regarding effective sanitizers for COVID-19 from the EPA. 

Remember that wearing gloves alone is not protection—for you OR your customers. While wearing gloves viruses can still be spread to surfaces, other people AND to you.  Good glove hygiene is crucial to preventing the spread of viruses.  This includes changing gloves often, washing your hands between glove changes and after removing gloves and avoiding cross contamination of foods AND transmission of viruses by not touching multiple surfacesnot touching money and your face and hair. 

If possible, offer hand sanitizer in high traffic areas and public spaces. Frequently used zones, such as registers and beverage areas are good places to make hand sanitizer easy to access and therefore more likely to be used. 

More frequent sanitizing of commonly touched surfaces is recommended. This includes doorknobs, counters, tables, chairs, handrails, bathrooms, beverage areas, menus, register areas and any other frequently handled surfaces. 

Remove items that will be passed between customers; clear self-service areas. Condiments, utensil caddies, cups, should be provided on request but removed from public areas.  Containers should be sanitized between uses and utensils should be washed in hot water or with sanitizing solution.  

You may come in contact with a customer who is showing signs of illness.  If a customer exhibits signs of illness: provide extra (disposable) napkins and/or tissuesprovide hand sanitizer, extra care should be taken to sanitize the area when the customer leaves and to wash your hands after contact. 

If an employee is sick or showing flu-like symptoms it is strongly encouraged that they are not at work until they are symptom free. 

Please note: this is not an exhaustive resource list.   

Allow common sense to prevail and get your information from trusted resources: 

For additional information and resources visit: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.gov/coronavirus); the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response); The World Health Organization (WHO.int); Massachusetts Department of Public Health (mass.gov)  

Notes and Image Credits:

Header Image: Shop clerk scanning bottle of alcohol