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Back to School “Pandemic Food Safety"

Updated: Aug 4, 2020



Schools and universities are gearing up over the Summer adding new procedures, practices, and technologies with plans to reopen in August and September as carefully as possible. As they navigate these unprecedented times, many are wondering how to safely store, prepare, and serve food to avoid transmission of the novel coronavirus.


Meat & Poultry COVID-19 Anxieties

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported COVID-19 cases among U.S. workers in 115 meat and poultry processing facilities across 19 stateswith approximately 130,000 workers at these facilities, 4,913 cases and 20 deaths.


While there is no published evidence of contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from touching food or food packaging that came in contact with the virus due to coughing or sneezing from an infected person (thus far), it is known that the virus causing COVID-19 can survive on surfaces and objects for a certain amount of time.


Providentially, the CDC says "currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food… there is [also] likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging." Though the virus can potentially live on certain surfaces such as packaging for several days, its likelihood of transmission decreases over time. Given the time it takes for meat and poultry to get from a processing plant to primary & secondary schools, and universities, the likelihood of transmission via any packaging is very low.


While those are general guidelines, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) coverage of the meat and poultry situation reiterates that food products from facilities where cases have been observed is similarly safe to eat based on knowledge of how the virus is transmitted (airborne droplets). The USDA reminds us that there are still are many other foodborne bacteria that can cause diseases with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea, and can sometimes be severe and life-threatening.


Bacteria Exist Everywhere

When bacteria have nutrients (food) and favorable temperatures, they grow rapidly to the point where some types of bacteria can cause illness. Bacteria always needs to be thwarted with safe storage (temperature monitored) and appropriate preparation at serving facilities.


Accordingly, the USDA has regulations that walk-in refrigerator and freezer temperatures must be monitored and recorded. The “Danger Zone” for rapidly growing bacteria is in the temperature range between 40 and 140 °F, some doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes.


Refrigeration Slows Bacterial Growth

The foods most likely to be contaminated include raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, shellfish, and unpasteurized milk, according to the CDC. Fruits and veggies are also vulnerable to disease-causing germs.


A refrigerator set at 40 °F or below will protect most foods. They also recommend free-standing freezers be set at 0 °F or below for long-term storage of frozen foods and having a thermometer and sensors to monitor the temperature. This is important if you experience power-outages or mechanical problems during off-hours when it might not be detected for an extended period of time.

 

frioguard is a solution to abide by these regulations. Frioguard products provide alarms and logging, so if there is a temperature change or an equipment failure, thousands of dollars of food will not be spoiled. Each frioguard temperature sensor transmits the current interior temperature of the cooling equipment back to the 24/7 cloud monitoring system. The moment any refrigerator or freezer gets too warm, management teams are alerted via email and/or SMS to take swift action.


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