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Food supply a top priority for SA

SA learns from the past on how to protect the food supply

During the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s food supply has become a growing concern for South Africans. To protect the food supply high standards of hygiene are needed. Luckily, South Africa’s food production has already put safety measures in place to protect the nation’s food. 

According to managing director of Industroclean, Emma Corder, there are already high hygiene standards are needed during every step of the food supply chain. 

“To protect the entire supply chain, high standards of hygiene are required right from the production process up until when it arrives on retail shelves.” 

Since the Listeriosis outbreak during the year 2017, producers in the meat sector have to follow Regulation 692. According to Corder, the Listeriosis outbreak was a persistent food-borne contaminant, which makes these measurements sufficient to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through meat handling. 

Some of the requirements include the following: 

  • Implement a cleaning schedule for the food preparation space, detailing who
  • cleans where, how they clean and with what they clean.
  • Use colour coding to separate different areas – for instance, production and front of the house – and the colour of the cleaning materials must match the area it can be used in.
  • Use only SANS-approved cleaning chemicals.
  • Ensure that two cleaning steps are followed: degrease to remove any protein build-up and then disinfect to remove bacteria (or viruses) at a microscopic level.

In addition, the South African government has made it mandatory for staff to wear masks and use hand sanitisers with at least 70 percent alcohol content. 

“Essentially, in this area of food production, workers should continue cleaning and disinfecting in the same way, with the additional step of applying hand sanitiser and then making sure that critical points have been well cleaned on a daily basis with a disinfectant cleaner suitable for food processing environments.” 

Producers in the fruit and vegetable sector have been compliant with the Global G.A.P (Good Agricultural Practices). The Global G.A.P has set a standard for demonstrating on-farm food safety and sustainability. In order for producers to sell their goods internationally and locally, they need to comply with these criteria and control points. 

Local retailers such as Woolworths and Marks & Spencers in the United Kingdom further adhere to the requirements set by the British Retail Consumer (BRC) standard, which requires food retailers to complete a daily audit of their factory windowpanes. This is in order to ensure that there is no possibility of glass contaminating their products. 

The World Health Organisation recommends that vegetables and fruit that are eaten raw should be washed with clean water before consumption. The WHO also explained that COVID-19 can live for up to 72 hours on plastic and steel. However, the viral load of these survival particles are not enough to result in an infection. 

While there are safety measures in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Corder explained that the public’s co-operation is also needed. 

“For retailers, one area of concern is shopping trolleys and baskets, as they are an obvious source of contamination due to them being used by high volumes of shoppers in one day. I would recommend using hot water high-pressure washers together with detergent for the efficient cleaning of these items.”

Corder recommended that the public follow the regulations of the individual stores. For those who live with high-risk individuals, it is recommended that before they enter their homes they sanitise each food item and clean their hands as well as remove their shoes. 

“Your best chance of staying healthy is to follow the rules and regulations laid out for you by government and committing to taking care of your own safety.”

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