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Protecting staff from cross contamination

30 November 2020

Darren Saunders, head of support at Holchem Laboratories, comments on new hygiene considerations in the food production environment. 

In my view the ‘new normal’ production environment should mirror that of pre Covid-19 models, in that existing, standard, routine cleaning practices to remove food soils, and disinfection to control bacterial pathogens, should continue without change. 

It is important to stress that traditional cleaning should be seen as separate to coronavirus decontamination strategies, where the target microorganism is SARS-CoV-2 and the major risk is to the cleaning operative not the food consumer.

The primary focus now should also be on additional hygiene and sanitation measures focused on keeping the SARS-CoV-2 virus out of their businesses and reducing potential cross contamination issues. Cross contamination with hands as the vector must be considered and frequent hand washing remains the best way to control Covid-19 transmission – the food industry should already have excellent washroom areas to facilitate this. However, there may be many surfaces that operatives could touch post hand washing, that may be contaminated, particularly in the washroom area. Washroom cleaning practices should, therefore, be increased, with particular attention placed on the frequent disinfection of constantly touched surfaces such as dispensers, sinks, taps, driers, PPE self-serve storage. 

Where hand washing is not possible, or as an adjunct to hand wash, frequent use of hand gels/rubs should be encouraged. The publicised approach is to use products containing between 60% and 80% alcohol which dissolve the lipid envelope of the coronavirus. Other hand sanitisers, aqueous-based plus biocide, can be equally effective as the alcohol-based products.

There should also be additional focus on touchpoints as cross contamination with hands as the vector is a consideration.  With a variety of surfaces included within this, it is important to choose a cleaning method that is appropriate, effective and which does not damage the surface. For example, with plastic or stainless-steel door handles a disinfectant wet wipe or a dry wipe plus spray disinfectant would be suitable. With a computer an alcohol based wet wipe would be most suitable.  

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