Tips to Lower Infection Risks in Food Retail Shops

Supermarkets and grocery stores are among the most frequented places during the pandemic. Canadian grocery stores have even seen a dramatic increase in customers’ turnouts since the outbreak began. With massive numbers of people flocking these establishments week in and out, it’s essential to establish strict cleaning protocols and implement physical distancing to mitigate infection risks.

Protect your employees and customers at all times. Read on to learn about health and safety best practices for food retail businesses. The guidelines below also cover important reminders on ensuring retail products must be handled and delivered to consumers without risking infection.

Personal Hygiene Reminders for Store Staff

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  • Employees must wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water. If hand washing is not possible, they must rub their hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer. See to it that they avoid touching exposed food with bare or unwashed hands. Make it a standard protocol to wash hands with soap and water before handling food.
  • Handwashing must be done for at least 20 seconds. Hands must be washed before eating, after going to the bathroom, and especially after coughing, sneezing, and blowing your nose.
  • Employees must avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Make sure employees wear gloves to prevent direct contact with ready-to-eat food.
  • Staff must cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. They must properly dispose of used tissue in the trash bin and wash their hands afterwards.

Tips to Manage Employee Health

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  • Closely monitor anyone in your team who is exhibiting flu-like symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough, and headaches. Instruct sick employees to report immediately to their supervisors if they experience any symptoms and to self-isolate at home.
  • Visit the Ministry of Health page for the complete safety protocols for people who may have Covid-19.
  • If an employee reports feeling sick at work, send them home right away. Clean and disinfect all surfaces in their work area. Perform contact tracing to determine the persons who’ve had close contact (within 6 feet) with the sick employee.
  • Employees who have been exposed to the disease but don’t experience any symptoms (i.e. asymptomatic) must inform their supervisor. Instruct them to quarantine themselves at home.
  • Make sure to implement the following precautionary steps to lower the risk of transmission among other employees:
    • Pre-screen every person before allowing them entry into the building. Take their temperature and assess their symptoms.
    • Clean and disinfect work areas, tools, and equipment especially high-touch surfaces. Do this before and after work hours.
    • Instruct employees to self-monitor by checking their own temperature and checking for symptoms regularly.
    • Everyone should wear a mask and face shield in the workplace.
    • Implement a social distancing rule of at least 6 feet from the next person.
    • Train employees on how they can help maintain safety and reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the store. Training should include how to determine Covid-19 symptoms and what steps to take if they, another employee, or a customer gets sick. Employees should also be trained on personal hygiene, as well as cleaning and disinfection protocols.

Sanitation Reminders in Food Service Establishments

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Follow basic food safety guidelines for retail food establishments and increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in your store. Below are some recommendations:

  • Wash and sanitize dining wares, utensils, beverage equipment, and food handling and preparation areas before and after use.
  • Disinfect surfaces frequently touched by employees and customers. These include door handles, equipment hands, grocery carts, and check-out counters.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect countertops, tables, payment terminals, cash registers, floors, and other high-touch areas.
  • Ensure alcohol-based sanitizers are accessible for public use in all areas.
  • Make it simpler for customers to follow physical distancing measures.
    • In the meantime, discontinue buffets, salad bars, and self-service beverage stations where customers need to use shared utensils or dispensers.
    • Place signages and floor markings all over the store to remind customers to stay at least 6 feet from each other. Put these visual reminders in areas where people commonly congregate, like check-out counters, tables, and ATMs.

    Make sure your ware-washing machines are set in the right wash and rinse temperatures to completely clean your dining wares. Also, use the appropriate cleaning products.

    If you’re using manual ware-washing machines you can use hot water to sanitize utensils and cooking equipment. A hot water temperature of 140°F is enough to kill bacteria. However, caution should be observed as this can cause severe burns.

Safety Practices for Food Delivery and Pick-Up

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Follow these safety practices to prevent cross-contamination and protect your staff and customers:

  • Instruct employees to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, particularly before eating, after heading to the bathroom, after coughing and sneezing, and after touching doorknobs, phones, and doorbells.
  • Have them use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces more often including countertops and the interior of your vehicles.
  • Set designated pick-up zones to enforce physical distancing among customers.
  • Practice physical distancing even when delivering food items. Contactless deliveries can be done by leaving the product at the doorstep and calling or texting the customer as soon as their food has arrived.
  • Evaluate your store to determine areas for improvement to strictly enforce physical distancing. If you offer a take-out option, the setup must allow for at least a 6-feet distance between people.
  • Before transporting orders, make sure to wrap food in secure packaging to prevent spillage and contamination.
  • Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods when transporting them to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Place foods inside insulated bags and use appropriate transport vessels to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect coolers and insulated bags.

Additional Reminders for a Healthy Workplace

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Along with enhancing environmental cleaning procedures in the workplace, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following best practices to make grocery stores and other food retail establishments a safe place for your staff and customers:

  • Use verbal announcements throughout the store premises and place signages at the entrances, restrooms, and break rooms to remind people to keep a 6-feet distance from others.
  • Remove extra chairs and tables or close other seating spaces to enforce distancing and control the volume of customers.
  • Manage the flow of foot traffic into the store by setting a maximum customer capacity. Implement this plan right at the entrance.
  • Provide remote shopping options for customers, like pick-up and online shopping to limit the number of people in the establishment.
  • If possible, reschedule stocking activities to after hours to limit contact with customers.
  • Routinely clean shelves, displays, and reach-in refrigerators and clean grocery carts and baskets during after hours.
  • Use protective equipment that helps minimize your employees’ and customers’ risk of exposure to coronavirus. These equipment include:
    • Pin pads covers – Pin pads are one of the high-touch areas in retail stores. Having a pin pad cover makes it easier to clean and disinfect the pin pad without the risk of damaging it. Pin pad covers also protect your device from dirt, bacteria, and grime.
    • Payment paddles – This is recommended for stores that provide delivery and drive-thru services. The payment paddle reduces the contact between the store staff and the customer. The payment terminal device or mobile card reader is attached to one end so your employee can hand the device to the customer from a safe distance.
    • Acrylic shields – These are protective devices installed in check-out counters to serve as barriers between the employee and customer as the point of sale. Acrylic shields are ideal for food and even non-food retail establishments.

Grocery stores and supermarkets are crucial in sustaining the needs of the public during this pandemic. Exhaust all precautions and infection risk control to protect the health and safety of your employees and customers.

Pandemic or not, POSRG Canada is here to help you grow your business. We have the safety of your team and customers in mind. Contact us for your POS and protective gear needs. Call us at (905) 332-8809 or email us at inquiries@posrg.ca.