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Information on coronavirus


Could be the virus transmitted by foodstuffs?

The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus. Primarily, it is transmitted contacting an infected person that in particular when speaking, coughing and sneezing spreads infectious driblets to the surroundings. Transmission is also possible by items recently contaminated by secrets of an infected person.

Transmission by foodstuffs in not probable, due to its low stability in the environment. It has not been proven so far that this would have happened in case of the new coronavirus.

Source: National Health Institute

Which preventive measures should be taken by food business operators?

Individuals infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus actively excrete sputum and mucous secretion. Areas of the food business premises could be contaminated this way including everything which is in, thus including food products as well.

Food business operators are responsible for ensuring food safety and play a key role in preventing diseases transmitted by foodstuffs: They should therefore ensure that:

  • employees are informed of the COVID-19 disease (Coronavirus)
  • employees are educated in the area of good hygiene practice
  • appropriate equipment and tools for keeping personal hygiene are available for the employees
  • efficient supervision over keeping hygiene rules by employees is performed (for example regular washing of hands, preventing unhygienic behaviour at the workplace – smoking, consumption of foodstuffs, sneezing or coughing above unprotected foodstuffs, etc.)
  • employees notify of their diseases transmissible by foodstuffs or of the symptoms of such diseases
  • persons with an infectious disease or its symptoms are excluded from all activities during which foodstuffs are treated or from the entry into premises where foodstuffs are treated – from the reason of possible food contamination
  • preventive rules and technological procedures are kept during handling of foodstuffs, such as proper thermal treatment of raw materials/foodstuffs, measures to prevent food contamination, etc.

With regard to the current risk of respiratory diseases caused by the coronavirus, food business operators should pay high attention to cleaning and disinfection of the areas, equipment of the premises including purchasing baskets.

In retails particular attention should by paid to ensuring appropriate hygiene conditions for sale of non-prepacked foodstuffs, in particular to keeping appropriate hygiene of self-service sale of non-prepacked bakery products as these are consumed without further treatment. The operators should ensure in particular:

  • that placing and organisation of the sale section is ALWAYS supervised by the staff including less frequented parts of the premises. This means permanent supervision by the staff
  • availability of packaging material and tools for selection of bakery products (bags, pliers, gloves or other tools)
  • clear education of consumers (signs, pictures, notifications by the staff, notifications in the local broadcasting channel)
  • presence of waste bins for dropped bakery products
  • thorough cleanness of the area in close distance to the section where non-prepacked bakery products are sold.

NHI strongly recommends that during the emergency state and in relation to the world-wide occurrence of the COVID-19 disease, sale of non-prepacked foodstuffs into packages and containers brought by consumers is significantly reduced and these foodstuffs are packed only to new, unused packages.

Serving staff is entitled to refuse to take a container or a package brought by a consumer and should prevent any manipulation with them, namely for precautionary reasons to protect his/her health as well as health of other consumers. Sale of foodstuffs such as fruit and vegetables which are washed and peeled before consumed or which they are thermally treated could be the only exception. Wineshops where an own used PET bottle for tapped wine is brought could also be an exception. (in Czech language only)

Keeping hygiene requirements during self-service of meals (buffets) is crucial also in public catering facilities. The operator should ensure conditions reducing the risk of contamination of meals offered to consumers, for example:

  • the buffet is equipped with appropriate feeding tools and they are regularly changed
  • visible instructions for consumers informing of the necessity to use these delivery tools or other equipment intended for hygienic manipulation with meals and foodstuffs
  • ensuring permanent monitoring whether the tools and equipment intended for manipulation with meals and foodstuffs offered the self-service way and surrounding areas are kept clean as well as monitoring whether behaviour of customers is hygienic.

In connection with the announcement of the state of emergency related to the worldwide occurrence of COVIC-19 pandemic, it is necessary to wash dishes used by consumers in restaurants and further gastronomic premises while good washing procedures have to be kept - see recommendations of NHI below:

  • In washing machines the whole washing programmes with the maximum power possible have to be used (55°C at least). Temperature of the rinsing should not be lower than 80°C and the washing programme have to be finished.
  • At the premises where professional equipment for washing of used dishes, in particular glasses and beer glasses is not available (pubs, beer houses, wineshops), it is recommended that after proper washing, rinsing at least by warm but preferably by hot running water is carried out.
  • From the point of public health protection, the operators and recommended, when washing glasses, to wash them by so-called spulboys, use disinfecting solutions with virucidal or virustatic effect at least and after that rinse them properly by clean potable water. (in Czech language only)