Food Safety in the Era of Covid-19: Here's How Brands Are Ensuring Safe Meals
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There is one element which is key to survival and we are extremely selective about it—food. While we carefully choose the food we would like to consume, we do tend to often overlook an important intrinsic aspect, i.e. food safety. Recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic taking centre stage however, food safety has emerged as a key issue. Government bodies such as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, food-tech companies and restaurants have been ramping up their efforts to ensure that the food consumed is safe and hygienic. As the economy and businesses start to reopen, the subject of food consumption at the workplace is a key priority for organizations, food service providers, and consumers.
Did you know that two-thirds of an employee’s meals are consumed at the workplace? Cafeterias are one of the most crowded spaces within the office premises, particularly during peak hours such as lunchtime. Owing to the highly transmissible nature of the virus, any contamination of the food or the cafeteria space can put the entire staff/visitors on premises at risk. With social distancing becoming the norm, there is a need for innovative solutions to minimize crowds in the cafeteria and eliminate the risk of virus transmission. So, how are organizations and brands ensuring that food safety measures are in place and the food is safe for consumption? Let us take a look.
Novel solutions powered by technology
Technology pervades every area of our life and an inexplicable march of technology has certainly made our lives easier in many ways. When it comes to food safety, the incorporation of technology goes a long way since keeping a track of every office cafeteria and kitchen and ensuring guidelines are followed manually, is next to impossible. Brands are leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to prevent crowding of cafeterias. Other tech-powered initiatives to ensure safety in the current environment include the use of automatic food dispensing machines, features such as desk-ordering (in organizations that allow food consumption at the workplace), bluetooth, RF, and imaging technologies that facilitate adherence to social distancing guidelines within cafeterias.
Tech is also playing a role in ensuring not just raw materials or supplies, kitchens and counters are kept hygienic, but that staff working in kitchens, and those involved in transporting and handling food are also ‘fit-to-work’. This tech-led recordkeeping has allowed companies to have a 360-degree view of the entire process right from the cooking to packaging and delivery of food.
Companies have also made it mandatory for food vendors and partners to fulfill certain parameters such as the quality of water and ingredients used for cooking, and so on. The advent of technology has, without a shadow of a doubt, made it possible for us to mitigate risks and ensure optimal food safety.
Additional training for staff
While brands are ensuring tech-enabled monitoring of the kitchen, serving counters on-site, the cafeteria, etc., it is imperative that they educate the group of individuals who are involved in the process—kitchen staff, counter staff and the executives involved in the transportation and handling of food. Training staff is among the first and most important steps to ensure food safety. Companies are now focusing on offering adequate training in line with the latest prescribed guidelines, safety gear such as personal protective equipment for the staff who handle the food.
With a combination of technology that permeates every aspect of the foodservice value chain, meticulous training in best practices of hygiene, social distancing, and identification of virus-related symptoms for delivery partners/executives, there has been a definite thrust towards increased food safety and reduced transmission risk.
Although the current scenario is temporary, food safety is something that cannot be neglected at any given time. Strictly adhering to safety and hygiene protocols will make sure we can savour our meal without worries of contamination or unsafe food.