Living with COVID-19: Managing Quality and Food Safety Programs in the New Normal
JULY 2, 2020 – PART ONE:
Food Delivery – Is our food supply chain ready for this new challenge?
*This is part 1 of a 3 part series that we will be publishing over the next few weeks.
During the first wave of COVID-19, we were in continuous contact with our customers and partners and we continued to see the same issues arising:
- In cannabis and food warehouse facilities, many were forced to cut shifts lengths or engage in staggered shifts in order to maintain physical distancing. Even though cannabis and food processing facilities employees (the majority) are essential to everyday operations, due to regulation and compliance requirements, facilities did the best they could by asking non-essential operational employees to work from home. Therefore, many of our clients were happy to be able to log in to Iron Apple’s QMS off-site to continue to have oversight, approve documents and schedule tasks. More on this topic in Part 2 of our series.
- Many companies were questioning whether they should still have their quality audit? They were already limiting non-essential employees into the facility, and do they risk having a visitor? More one this topic to come in Part 3.
- The transportation industry was one of the industries that kept moving. Without them, freight, food and medical supplies would not have gotten into the supply chain. However, this was a real concern for transportation companies as truck drivers continue to travel and warehouse personnel continued to interact with people. Therefore, this increased their employee’s risk of exposure to COVID-19 significantly.
- We also received a lot of questions regarding training on how to wear appropriate PPE. We were getting questions such as- should our drivers be wearing masks? Should our warehouse personnel wear a new set of gloves for every load they receive? Companies wanted to keep their employees safe and do what was right, but we they were dealing with situations they had never experienced before.
This led us at Iron Apple to strategize on how we could further help and support our customers and partners during these unprecedented times. Our first call to action was to act quickly and enhance our current ‘Health & Food Safety Best Practices for Transportation & Food Delivery’ training course to reflect the safety challenges the transportation and food delivery industry were now facing due to COVID-19.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadians Grocery habits dramatically changed during the height of the first wave of the pandemic (the months of March, April and May). The most significant increase was in grocery delivery. Food delivery, whether it’s from a restaurant, grocery store or meal kits, has taken on a huge sector in the food industry. Most recently in an article (posted here) Frank Yannis, the Deputy Commission for Food Policy and Response with the FDA, was quoted saying “that when the FDA started looking at food safety and food delivery, they anticipated that 20% of groceries would be ordered and delivered by 2023. Since the pandemic, the benchmark has been blown out of the water at a shattering rate”.
- We want to be clear, that there is no real evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted or transferred through food, but the real risk here is happening in two ways. Firstly, you now have a sector that quite possibly lacks basic food safety and handling training. Secondly, the shifts in delivery methods are exposing real problems that can occur when food is not kept at the correct temperature and when conveyance sanitation is lacking. Therefore, the risk of contamination during transit has now increased significantly.
Food companies entering into the food delivery space owe it their customers to understand their blind spots within this sector. How are they handling food safety training? Are employees trained sufficiently enough to make a food safety decision if an issue was to arise? Are conveyances regularly and appropriately cleaned? By taking this preventive approach they are not only protecting their employees and customers, but they are protecting their brand. This is living with COVID-19, this is our new normal.
Iron Apple has developed a short training program for home delivery & transport drivers that covers many of these topics. It includes critical awareness information to keep drivers and the food they are delivering safe during COVID-19. More info here: Health, Hygiene & Food Safety Best Practices for Drivers – COVID-19 Edition.
Development & Implementation Manager
Living with COVID-19 Series – Managing Quality & Food Safety Programs in the New Normal