In an open letter, he assured businesses he was in regular dialogue with the Government to help safeguard the industry and offer guidance to employers to ensure safe food production amid the crisis.
“Everyone working in the food and drink industry has rallied in an extraordinary way to respond to this unprecedented challenge,” Eustice stated.
‘Proud and thankful’
“Having worked in the food industry myself, I am personally enormously proud and thankful for all the work that you have done in recent weeks, and will be asked to do in the weeks ahead. In many cases you are the hidden heroes, and the country is grateful for all that you have done.”
The environment secretary’s support for the industry followed the publication of new Government guidance for food businesses to help them operate safely at this time.
It primarily advises businesses to continue to follow Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidance on good hygiene practices, it stressed the importance of more frequent handwashing and regularly disinfected surfaces.
Employees are expected to follow social distancing guidance as far as reasonably possible – at least two metres distance between people – inside and outside processing areas.
Risk of infection
The guidance also reinforced World Health Organisation advice that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating food products was low. Similarly, any risk of catching the coronavirus from a package that had been moved, travelled and exposed to different conditions and temperatures was extremely low, according to the Government.
Commenting on the guidance, which it had provided the FSA stated: “The FSA is working with the food industry to ensure that businesses know what their responsibilities are and what actions they need to take to maintain safety standards and protect staff during the outbreak.”
Meanwhile, the Groceries Code Adjudicator has urged retailers and suppliers to work together but has called on them to follow some “guiding principles”.