Compliance with requirements on food temperature
Due to the ongoing state of emergency, the Finnish Food Authority has instructed on a number of exceptions in order to secure food supply. Food temperature requirements are directly linked to shelf life and food safety, and exceptions to these are not permitted even under emergency conditions. Particular care should be taken to ensure food safety while the epidemic is ongoing.
How should employees take care of hygiene when working in premises used for handling food?
When working at a food establishment, it is particularly important that hands are washed with water and soap thoroughly and frequently. Avoid touching your face. Always wash hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Follow the Finnish Food Authority’s instructions on washing hands. Be sure to also read the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s handwashing instructions.
Remember to only handle food, cooking utensils and serving dishes with clean, healthy hands.
Using disposable gloves when handling food
The purpose of protective gloves is to protect food from dirt and microbes passed on by touch. Gloves are often used to cover the hands when handling food. If protective gloves are used, their hygiene must be ensured and the gloves must be disposed and replaced sufficiently often, particularly to prevent cross-contamination. Protective gloves must be used particularly when handling non-prepacked food if you have an infected wound in your hand or use artificial nails or jewellery. Regardless of whether protective gloves are used, you should wash hands regularly.
If you do not have access to your usual type of disposable glove and need to switch to a new product, be sure to check that the new gloves are suitable for their intended use in handling food. The suitability of disposable gloves for their intended use should be ensured particularly if the gloves are used to handle greasy and/or hot foods. To check whether the gloves can be used in handling food, see the print on the packaging or look for a symbol of a wine glass and a fork. The packaging should also indicate if there are limitations on use of the gloves for handling food, such as the characteristics of the food being handled or limits on contact time. The law requires that the packaging for vinyl PVC gloves not suitable for handling greasy foods must include the phrase “not suitable for handling greasy food” or equivalent. However, as the labelling of vinyl gloves is often incomplete in this respect, you should check suitability with the supplier when necessary.
Good food hygiene must always be followed in food production in order to ensure that the food is safe, healthy and clean. Employees may not come in sick even when only experiencing minor flu symptoms. All members of staff should be reminded of good hygiene practices at work. Any temporary workers should also be trained on workplace hygiene. Your occupational healthcare provider is responsible for instructions related to employees’ health.
Does the Finnish Food Authority have instructions for the food workers’ use of mouth-nose masks?
According to current knowledge, coronavirus is not transmitted through food. Therefore, the coronavirus epidemic does not call for a different-from-usual use of personal protective equipment in food establishments for food safety reasons. For guidelines on how to protect personnel at the workplace, see the guidelines of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
How to act if corona infection is detected in a food company?
The most important thing is to prevent the spread of infections: if an employee has even mild symptoms of respiratory infection, it is advisable to stay home and not go to work to infect others. The website of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare contains general instructions, and the website of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health provides guidelines for workers to prevent coronavirus infections. Companies are advised to comply with them as a precautionary measure. Read more from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health website.
According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the spread of the epidemic is primarily prevented in such a way that a communicable disease control authority places patients with confirmed corona disease and those exposed to them into quarantine. The decisions on the quarantine of those who have been exposed to the coronavirus are made by the communicable disease control authority, i.e. a communicable disease control physician of a hospital district or municipality. The decision of the communicable disease control authority is local and case-specific and made in consideration of preventing the spread of the disease. A company is advised to contact the communicable disease control physician of its region or its occupational health care services to determine the company’s in-house protection against the spread of the disease and the nature of the company’s operations (e.g. significance for food supply).
For example, if workers on a certain shift have been exposed, the operations can be continued when the working facilities have been cleaned by the non-exposed workers. If all the company’s workers have been exposed and new workers cannot be familiarised with the operations, it is possible that the company’s operations will have to be suspended for the duration of the quarantine.
Good food hygiene must always be followed in food production to ensure the safety of foodstuffs. Consequently, the Finnish Food Authority holds that the foodstuffs, food packages and packaging materials currently held in the company need not be disposed of even if the company’s workers were diagnosed with a coronavirus infection.
Can the COVID-19 coronavirus be transmitted through surfaces or utensils?
According to our current understanding, contact through surfaces such as door handles or utensils does not a pose a significant risk of transmitting the disease. For general information on cleaning, see the Finnish Food Authority and Finnish Institute of Occupational Health websites.
Surfaces touched by customers (door handles, railings, chairs, high chairs, tables, payment terminals, toilet and bathroom facilities, etc.) must be cleaned carefully and as often as possible.
Buttons, handles and utensils that come into contact with customers handling food or beverages must be cleaned more frequently than normal. Utensils, bread and butter knives and tablecloths and lids used to cover food must be replaced several times during the day. Disposable utensils should be used when possible. Be sure to also clean any food packaging surfaces touched by customers (such as oil and condiment bottles). It is advisable that bread and other similar products are served as ready slices or servings.
For more information on enhanced cleaning of customer premises, visit the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health website.
Manufacturing hand sanitizer in food premises
The manufacture and sale of hand sanitizer is directed by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes).
If you intend to manufacture hand sanitizer in food premises, contact your municipality’s food control authority before starting manufacture.
- Plan how you will ensure that the manufacture of hand sanitizer does not endanger food safety.
Manufacture of hand sanitizer and food production must either be physically separated or take place at different times.
Materials used to manufacture hand sanitizer must be stored separate from food
- Before restarting food production, make sure that the facilities and equipment have been cleaned thoroughly to avoid leaving traces of hand sanitizer in food.
- Hand sanitizer must be equipped with sufficient and clear labelling to ensure that it is not confused with food.
The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency website contains more information on permits and labelling, manufacture and sale of hand sanitizer (inFinnish).
- The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency instructs on the manufacture and sale of hand sanitizer
- Ensure safety when manufacturing hand sanitizer from ethanol
- Take care when choosing the right type of disinfectant and hand sanitizer
Will the coronavirus epidemic affect my hygiene passport test and receiving a hygiene passport?
Hygiene passport test agencies still have the right to hold hygiene passport tests and issue hygiene passports. In practice, employees in need of a hygiene passport may currently experience difficulties in attending a hygiene passport test and receiving their hygiene passport.