Deliver nutrition, protect and energize the population!

Covid-19– Guidelines for hygiene, health, and food

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coronavirus
Photo by Burst from Pexel

The novel coronavirus pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus (also known as COVID-19 virus) has created an unprecedented threat across the world. Many countries, including India, are following the advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding social distancing as one of the significant measures that can reduce the transmission of this disease.

 

As the pandemic continues to suspend daily life around the world, concerns about food supply and safety are growing. Today, it’s not just about the ability of food producers to deliver their products to people who need them, but there is also concern among consumers about food hygiene safety.

 

The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has stated that it has not found any evidence of the transmission of the Covid-19 virus through food and food packaging. It said that unlike food-borne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses, COVID-19 is a virus that causes respiratory illness, which is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Nevertheless, the same agency says, it’s always essential to follow the four critical steps of food safety — clean, separate, cook, and chill – to prevent food-borne illness.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO), says coronaviruses cannot multiply in food – they need an animal or a human host to multiply. Alternatively, the respiratory droplets being too heavy to be airborne, rest on the surfaces surrounding infected persons. Individuals can contract the infection by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. Researchers have evaluated the survival of the COVID-19 virus on different surfaces.

 

Considering how fast this pandemic is spreading, the food industry has a huge responsibility of maintaining trust and consumer confidence in the safety and availability of food. Moreover, there is an urgent requirement for the food industry to reinforce personal hygiene measures and conduct adequate training on food hygiene principles to eliminate or reduce the risk of contamination on food surfaces and food packaging materials.

 

The industry has to comply with specific guidelines and measures recommended by WHO as well as local governments to ensure food safety. These include but are not limited to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and gloves, to reduce the spread of viruses and disease within the premises. It is also vital to maintain social or physical distancing, stringent hygiene, and sanitation measures, promoting frequent and effective hand washing and sanitization at each stage of food processing, manufacture, and marketing.

 

In addition, food manufacturing plants should be vigilant in their hygiene practices, including frequent and proper handwashing and routine cleaning of all surfaces using suitable disinfectants. These measures will not only protect staff from spreading COVID-19 among workers, but also help to maintain a healthy workforce, and detect and exclude infected food handlers and their immediate contacts from the workplace.

 

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has developed a series of sector-specific Food Safety Management System (FSMS) guidance documents based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles to manage food safety risks and prevent food contamination during manufacturing, packing, storage, and transportation. These guidelines ensure that critical food safety-related aspects are addressed throughout the supply chain. In case a business does not have an FSMS or HACCP team established, it needs to appoint one person responsible for considering whether food safety risks could arise from additional measures. Also, this designated person must liaise with food safety authorities for advice.

 

These guidelines help the food industry to meet all the underlying conditions and activities necessary to maintain a hygienic food processing environment including good hygiene practices, cleaning, and sanitation, zoning of food processing areas, maintaining physical distancing by restricting the number of workers, supplier control, storage, distribution and transport, and personnel hygiene among others. Not only will these additional measures help to maintain the integrity of the food chain, but they will also ensure adequate and safe food supplies are available for consumers. The industry’s mission is to deliver nutrition beyond sustenance – to deliver the right kind of food in a way that keeps the population healthy and energizes it for the challenges ahead!

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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Technical Editor - Mandeep Kaur is working with IPP Group and holding editorial responsibilities for the IndiFoodBev and PSA Healthcare platforms. Earlier she handled editorial responsibilities of food, beverage, and agriculture publications at another publisher. A gold-medalist in M Tech (Food Technology), she has hands-on experience in operating different types of instruments related to physico-chemical testing of grains and flour. She has worked at Evalueserve in the Intellectual Property (IP) division for more than three years handling projects in the life sciences domain.

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