The Society for Hospitality & Foodservice Management (SHFM) held a Critical Topic Webinar for members on March 13th with Dr. Melvin Kramer of EHA Consulting Group, which specializes in dealing with infectious diseases. Dr. Kramer discussed the spread of coronavirus and strategies foodservice operators should take in their operations to minimize infection and contamination risks. Among the takeaways were:
- Once test kits are widely deployed in the U.S., there will probably be an “incredible increase” in cases, but also—hopefully—a substantial decrease in the fatality rate as many who are infected don’t know it because the symptoms are either mild or nonexistent.
- Some of the 12,000 or so deaths since October 2019 attributed to the flu in the U.S. may have actually been coronavirus but we don’t know for sure right now.
- The highest risk population is those age 70 and above.
- The virus can live on surfaces anywhere from a few hours to several days, something that has yet to be more accurately determined.
- The most common transmission is droplet infection in which a person touches a contaminated surface, then touches a part of their body such as the nose or eyes from where the virus can enter.
- There is “zero evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through food or is foodborne,” the exception being that the surfaces of foods can carry the infection in the same way any other surface can.
- Bathrooms and washing stations should have disposables that individuals can use when touching faucets or door handles after washing so they don’t re-contaminate.
- “Cell phones are probably dirtier than most bathrooms” and are especially dangerous because they are often held near one’s face, so they should be wiped with sanitizer frequently.
- In cafes, any surface that requires touching by multiple customers, such as self-serve utensils like ladles and tongs on food and salad bars, as well as dispenser handles, should either be eliminated or sanitized/switched out frequently.
- Hand sanitizers are OK but proper hand washing with soap and warm water is much better.
- Kitchen managers and executives should “flamboyantly” model hand washing when entering food prep areas to communicate its importance to staff.
- Sick day policies should be rigorously enforced, and employees should be told to call in rather than show up first and then announce they aren’t feeling well.
- When using sanitizer, follow the instructions for its use exactly. Don’t skimp either on how much is used or for how long.
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