As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses rapidly around the world, the Government of Canada is acting swiftly to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Temporary closures of food service businesses like restaurants and bars are being implemented from coast to coast, with significant effects being felt in the food industry. There is the very serious reality that some food businesses may not open their doors again once the pandemic has passed. However, there will be those businesses that do make it through and a very different food industry landscape could be awaiting them. Here are some of the possible changes that the food industry could see in the not-so-distant future.
Reduced buffets and self-service
Buffets and self-service foods are known to have increased food safety risks due to the general public being responsible for serving themselves in these establishments. Members of the general public aren’t food safety trained and this can cause food safety hazards. Also, utensils and equipment are touched by multiple people which increases the risk of biological and cross-contamination of food. The large volume of people close to the food also increases the risk of pathogens.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the general public are becoming increasingly educated about cross-contamination and more wary of the behaviour of others. It is anticipated that this knowledge will lead to a decrease in demand for buffet or self-service style food after the COVID-19 pandemic ceases. Simultaneously, there could be a growing demand for food prepared and handled by people with a sound knowledge of food safety.
Physical distancing measures remain
Many food retail businesses, like supermarkets and grocery stores, implemented social distancing measures such as plexiglass barriers to keep a safe distance between customers and employees. These measures may remain in place once the coronavirus crisis is over as a continued measure to protect staff and customers.
Employees respecting illness protocols
Food workers have been known to work when sick, due to fears about missing out on pay or potentially losing a job altogether. The COVID-19 pandemic has made people more aware of how dangerous pathogens can be and how they spread. Post-pandemic, food business managers and food workers will be understandably reluctant to work with someone who has any signs of illness. Customers will also be more demanding about the health and hygiene of the people preparing and serving their food.
Continued use of personal protective equipment
The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as disposable gloves and face masks has become a common sight in many food businesses and in general by the public. After the pandemic subsides, using PPE may become standard in businesses to provide customer-facing food workers with continued protection.
PPE can help to protect employees from the coronavirus and other illnesses but it’s essential that employees are trained in its use. For instance, disposable gloves must be changed at least every half hour or more frequently if the food worker is in a situation where they would normally wash their hands.
Increased personal hygiene
The importance of hand washing has been hard to ingrain into the minds of the public, including food workers. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was often one of the most difficult food safety tasks to enforce with food workers forgetting or not having time to wash hands regularly.
The importance of hand washing has been broadcast repeatedly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the public are finally paying attention. Some countries around the world are reporting shortages of hand soaps and sanitizers. The importance of good hand hygiene is expected to be recognized for many years post-pandemic which will lead to improved hand washing by everyone, including food workers.
Improved restaurant sanitation
It is anticipated that after the COVID-19 pandemic passes, most food businesses will have greater respect for health and safety legislation. Most food safety legislation stipulates that all objects and surfaces that have been in contact with food needs to be sanitized regularly. This will be the bare minimum going forward.
We will see increased sanitation of objects and surfaces that have not been in contact with food. Items such as menus, salt and pepper shakers, door handles and credit card machines will now be cleaned and sanitized more regularly to keep customers safe and to put their minds at ease.
As the demand for food safety continues to change and adapt to the needs of the industry, stay connected with the Canadian Institute of Food Safety for the in latest food safety information. Learn more about the regulations and requirements for businesses, get updated training information and recent news on how the coronavirus is impacting the food industry.