Food at Workplace

In conversation with HSE Director, Sodexo India, Ashwin Bhosale.

Published on : 6/1/20
  • Important food considerations at the workplace and beyond

    It’s clear now that the pandemic is not going to be eradicated in a hurry. Hence, organizations must now embrace this situation as the new normal and discover strategies to bring lives and businesses back on track. Among the many aspects that organizations need to rethink before they reboot their businesses, food takes centre-stage. Given the COVID situation where people have to look after home, family and work without any outside help, workplace food now assumes more importance than ever. Hence, organizations have to integrate all the precautions necessary in the entire food chain from farm to fork, to deliver food that is tasty, nutritious, and most importantly, safe.

    In a recently concluded webinar on Food and some related FAQs in the post-COVID era, our HSE Director, Ashwin Bhosale spoke at length about the necessary steps to be taken by organizations to #Reopen and Rise with Sodexo, in line with the FSSAI guidelines. Here are a few excerpts:

    Since organizations are slowly opening their doors, what are the generic rules of safety to be followed at the workplace?

    AB: There are basically 4 golden rules to be followed at all times: deep cleaning and sanitation, thermal screening at entry point, maintaining physical distance of 1 m in between employees and stringent personal hygiene. To support social distancing, people can be allowed to work in shifts so that there are no more than 3-4 employees in an area of 3.05 metres at any given point of time. Face-to-face meetings can be replaced by remote ones over the internet. Spacing measures like stickers, tapes, markers can be used to reinforce social distance. Sharing of lockers should be prohibited.

    In the on-site kitchens in particular, there can be staggered working hours for the kitchen staff and staggered meal times. Nutritious takeaways can replace the elaborate buffet spreads. Care should be taken to maintain 1 m distance while food delivery; there should be no hand delivery.

    A very important question - is there any possibility of COVID 19 infecting us through food?

    AB: As per FSSAI, there is absolutely no evidence in support of the virus spreading through food, including poultry and seafood. However, since we know that COVID 19 can survive on many surfaces or objects for several hours, it is critical to develop and follow a robust Disinfection program to prevent the spread of the virus.

    What are the personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitization measures to be observed at the on-site kitchens?

    AB: Just like in the other areas of the workplace, the kitchen staff also needs to follow WHO guidelines of hand washing for 20 secs, use alcohol based sanitizers, wear masks to cover nose and mouth, frequently clean and disinfect their work areas and avoid close contact with co-workers. Care should be taken to disinfect common touch points such as doorknobs, equipment handles, desk, grocery cart handles, etc, regularly.

    All areas related to food preparation – transport vehicle, stores, production, packaging, service and waste disposal – need to be cleaned with soap and water, followed by disinfection by approved and safe chemicals. The equipment, containers, utensils, cutlery, etc. should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and hot water. Disposable kitchenware, cutlery, etc, should preferably be used to rule out contamination.

    Inside the kitchen, tongs, gloves or other kitchen accessories should be used to prevent direct hand contact with food, especially uncooked food. Dedicated food pick-up zones for employees have to be ensured and there should be contactless delivery. Ready-to-eat food can be kept in glass displays and not in the open. Additionally, consumers should be encouraged to go digital – place orders and make payment through an app. There can be visual display of DOs and DON’Ts and preventive tips to spread awareness too. Daily monitoring of staff health is absolutely essential

    What about safety measures in food packaging?

    AB: Since retention time of the COVID-19 virus on different surfaces varies from 4 hrs - 5 days, cleaning, sanitizing, disinfection measures need to be adopted to ensure that the food containers/packages are kept clean and away from possible sources of contamination.

    What measures can employees working from home take to prevent infection?

    AB: Employees who work from home can observe similar precautions like they do when going for grocery and poultry shopping – wipe cart, basket and reusable shopping bags well before using, browse for products with eyes only, pay digitally, and then empty the food cartons at home observing normal safe food handling procedures. When accepting food takeouts, employees can ask for the order to be left at the door, pay online and wash hands after removing food from packaging and after throwing packaging away.

    What are the hygiene measures to be observed during food transportation and distribution?

    AB: Sensitization about COVID-19 symptoms and preventive measures is very important. Drivers, loaders and other staff have to maintain high standards of personal hygiene. They have to clean and sanitize delivery/transport vehicles regularly and use these vehicles only for food deliveries /distribution. Use of masks and hand sanitisers is indispensable. They should avoid use of public toilets and refrain from visiting crowded places during break-time. If a vehicle enters an area marked as a COVID-19 hotspot, then the vehicle should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use. Relevant records must be maintained for contact tracing in case the needs arise. And in case anyone displays flu like symptoms, they should be restricted from handling / transporting / delivering food immediately.

    What advice would you give consumers to prevent contraction of COVID-19 infection?

    AB: Consumers should preferably use single-use (paper or plastic, where appropriate) bags for packing groceries. They should rub alcohol-based hand antiseptic (with 70% ethyl alcohol as the active ingredient) before touching groceries. Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly in a mixture of water and baking soda before storage at home. Rinsing raw agricultural products under running water prior to cutting or serving is a must. Further, it is advisable to thoroughly cook vegetables and meat as this destroys many germs, including coronavirus.

    How can food service providers like Sodexo deliver solutions to mitigate this crisis?

     

    AB: Food service providers like Sodexo already have a long and proven track record. Having a global footprint, they are well aware of the infection threat, and are committed to providing safe and nutritious food through several channels. They operate in safe and healthy environments and ensure that proper hygiene is maintained at every touch point in the food supply, preparation and delivery chain. For client organizations with on-site kitchen facility, employees have the choice of eating in the cafeteria or carrying their food to their working area. Meals are cooked in HSE approved kitchen and provided in disposable/microwaveable packages through contactless delivery. Employees can also avail ready-to-eat hot and cold food from smart vending machines. They can grab-and-go packaged food at any time of the day.

     

    Sodexo has tied up with Rebel Foods, one of the largest cloud kitchen players in India, to provide a variety of packaged food to employees working from home. Sodexo also has partnered with central kitchen facility across the country and has associated with meal delivery organizations to deliver fresh, healthy and balanced meals to employees and their families, at their homes with a Sodexo safety assurance programme around it. The company provides 3600 solutions in food services with complete emphasis on safety to enhance Quality of Life of every consumer.