Image courtesy World Health Organisation (WHO).

Some of the safe hygiene practices being used slow the transmission and reducing risk of COVID-19 infection, are just as important for ensuring food safety, citizens are being reminded as World Food Day 2020 is being observed, on Sunday 7 June 2020.

According to a release from the Department of Food Production in the UWI’s Faculty of Food and Agriculture, observing those hygiene guidelines—especially hand-washing—are important for the safe handling, preparation and eating of food.

The following is the full text of the statement issued by the Department, in observance of World Food Safety Day 2020…

OUR NEW PART TO PLAY DURING WORLD FOOD SAFETY DAY 2020

The reality of the scarcity of the world’s resources has become magnified during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Access to safe food or food with low levels of hazards that could lead to food-borne illnesses is critical to our survival. The Department of Food Production in the Faculty of Food and Agriculture at The UWI St. Augustine Campus joins in the international community in commemorating the second observance of World Food Safety Day this Sunday 7, June 2020. The goal is to encourage everyone to live out this year’s theme, “Food Safety, Everyone’s Business”.

All consumers of food have a part to play in keeping food supply chains healthy. World Food Safety Day stresses that whether you grow, process, transport, store, distribute, sell, prepare, serve or consumer food; you have a role to play in keeping food safe. Safe hygiene practices are especially important to stop the spread of COVID-19, but what measures should consumers take to protect their food?

Professor Neela Badrie, Coordinator of the Department of Food Production’s Postgraduate Diploma/MSc Agri-Food Safety and Quality Assurance programme. (Image courtesy The UWI)

Professor Neela Badrie and Dr Marsha Singh, Coordinators of the Department of Food Production’s Postgraduate Diploma/MSc Agri-Food Safety and Quality Assurance programme dispel misconceptions and provide helpful tips about food safety and COVID-19:

  • All consumers have a right to safe, healthy and nutritious food. As of now, there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food. Though, the COVID-19 virus can survive on objects and surfaces, it is not known as to how long it can survive on food and what amount of contamination would make a person sick. However, a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine 2020 evaluated the survival of the COVID-19 virus on different surfaces. It was reported that the virus can remain viable for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, up to four hours on copper and up to 24 hours on cardboard. However, this research was conducted under laboratory conditions (controlled relative humidity and temperature) and should be interpreted with caution in the real-life environment.
  • Although some consumers may perceive that there is a risk of COVID19 infection resulting from open food displays, there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that food is associated with transmission of the COVID-19 virus. However, it is important to maintain good hygiene practices around open food displays, such as salad bars.
  • Hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of many diseases, including COVID-19. It should be done after shopping, before handling and during preparation of foods, before eating and after using the bathroom.  Hands should be washed with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. An alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol could be used if soap and water are not available. All equipment and surfaces used for food preparation should be washed and sanitised. For good respiratory hygiene, the mouth and nose should be covered when coughing or sneezing.
Tomatoes in the greenhouse at The UWI St. Augustine’s Agricultural Innovation Park in Orange Grove. (Image courtesy The UWI)