Food manufacturers urged to mitigate coronavirus risks

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Food manufacturers are being advised to mitigate risks
Food manufacturers are being advised to mitigate risks

Related tags: Food safety, coronavirus

Food manufacturers have been urged to mitigate any risks with the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

The advice comes as the Government has moved to reassure the public that there will be no food shortages in the wake of the spread of coronavirus. 

Panic-buying has seen food essentials such as pasta, long-life milk and tinned vegetables, along with non-food items such as toilet roll and soaps, sell-out across supermarkets.

The reassurance came as the COVID-19 outbreak claimed its third coronavirus fatality.

Environment, food and rural affairs minister George Eustice has reportedly said that the Government has been working with supermarkets to discuss their response to the virus.

Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock said there was no need for people to buy in excess.

James Kemp, managing director of Pentadel Project Management, has urged food manufacturers to mitigate any risks – whether relating to concerns about product contamination or the possibility of a sick workforce.

“Whatever the challenges are, there are most certainly measures food and drink manufacturers can be taking now to ensure risks are appropriately mitigated and that their operations weather this storm,”​ he said.

“In the immediate term, a thorough review of current manufacturing flows may well highlight opportunities to reduce physical contact. These might be as simple as removing turnstiles or eliminating finger-touch access control and time records.” 

He added that many manufacturers would have to consider the additional complication of business-critical project works and review contracts for anything such as facility upgrades and refits. 

“Project owners must review all contracts held in relation to current projects, with a view to ensuring that all parties’ positions are fully understood. In turn, this will enable thorough identification of any and all risks – and mitigation measures can then be prepared as appropriate,”​ he said.   

Meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that it was working with the Government to find ways to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.

“Retailers are currently facing a rise in demand for certain products unprecedented outside of the Christmas period. However, this is largely been limited to hygiene and longer shelf-life food products,” ​said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.

“The BRC and its members are also working with the Government to find ways to mitigate the impact of coronavirus. Together we are looking at ways of supporting all consumers, including those who are self-isolating. The BRC has given Government a list of regulations where relaxation would ease pressure in the supply chain, including extending drivers’ hours and giving flexibility on delivery times to stores.”

In addition, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has issued guidance to help reduce the spread of the virus.  It is advising employers who have a confirmed coronavirus case among its workforce to clean all surfaces that the person has come into contact with.

However, public areas where a symptomatic individual has passed through and spent minimal time in (such as corridors), but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids, do not need to be specially cleaned and disinfected.

The Food Chain Emergency Liaison Group, which includes retail and supply groups, had its first meeting last week to discuss the impact of the virus.

Related topics: Supply Chain

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