On June 3, the Barcelona Food Safety Forum (BFS2020) was held, which this year opted for a 2nd digital edition so we don’t miss the opportunity to share knowledge and learning with different professionals in the sector of food safety. For this reason, the BSA 2020 forum consisted of an online session where the learning of the food security sector during the Covid-19 crisis was discussed.
We can say that the forum was a complete success. It was attended by prestigious experts in the food security sector and far exceeded the forecasts for assistance. With more than 600 professional participants from the sector and was widely accepted by the public.
The forum was promoted by the Health Department of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, IRTA, Bioser and Itram Higiene and was sponsored by the companies Bioser and Itram Higiene.
The session was moderated by the chemical engineer Miquel Bonet, who inaugurated the BSA 2020 highlighting the good preparation of the food industry to face the current SARS-CoV-2 crisis. Moreover, high hygiene standards and good management of occupational risks of the industries in the sector contribute to the non-spread of the coronavirus.
Among other effects, the current health crisis has led to a change in consumption habits. Food supply and security must be ensured.
Is Covid-19 transmitted through food?
The first speaker of the BFS2020, José Juan Rodríguez, professor of nutrition and Food Science at the UAB, discussed the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 and food. He stated that there was no scientific evidence of the transmission of the coronavirus through food, so food controls are not necessary. He also commented that there is no transmission via the fecal-oral route or through the packaging of the products. In the case of food, the danger lies in the affected food handlers.
So, we don’t have a problem of food safety but of occupational risks. It must be ensured that the food handling personnel know and understand perfectly the hygiene measures and apply them correctly. These include proper hand washing, use of a mask, separation of workers, and proper use of gloves.
If general hygiene is improved, safety will improve. A correct HACCP system must be applied with good staff training and awareness, as well as good hygiene on work surfaces.
It is possible to use various disinfectants for proper disinfection in the food industry sector to avoid virus transmission. Alcohol by 70%, sodium hypochlorite by 0.1% and hydrogen peroxide by 0.1% are capable of removing the virus in one minute.
Lessons learned: people, the most important thing in a company
Elena Beltran, head of R&D at the Sant Dalmai factory explained how hygiene measures were increased in Sant Dalmai at its facilities. The importance of people in a company was also highlighted as a lesson in this health crisis.
Beltran recalled that the goal of the food industry is to keep food always safe, healthy and sustainable. So, there is no need to overact or lose sight of the objective in a crisis like this.
According to the R&D manager, it’s important to understand that we are not facing a food security crisis, but rather one of safety and occupational health.
From Sant Dalmai it has been commented that the high hygiene measures in its facilities is something that they were already doing until now. The only thing that changed was the intensity of the products, now using stronger hygiene products, such as 70% alcohol.
Other measures that were applied were working from home, taking temperatures, disinfecting hands at the entrance, the mandatory use of masks, the mandatory maintenance of the safety distance between workers, proper ventilation, among others.
The effects of covid-19 on the food industry
Mª José Sardoy, head of Quality and Food Safety of the Plusfresc supermarket chain, related how they reacted in time to the current crisis caused by Covid-19. Some of the actions they took were drawing up a Contingency Plan and a Crisis Committee.
Plusfresc worked to guarantee the supply, the budget for its Hygiene Plan was doubled, it added gels and disinfectants in their stores as well as gloves. It implemented new distribution rules and prioritized older people with special measures.
BFS2020: New times for food security
Carme Chacón, Deputy Director General of Food Safety and Health Protection of the Health Department of the Generalitat de Catalunya has begun her intervention noting that «the food chain has been up to the task, prepared and has ensured supply».
Chacón marked 3 stages through which the food sector has had to pass. The first of which was the arrival of the pandemic, followed by the reorganization of services to ensure the proper functioning of the food system, and finally a third phase to establish the new normality.
As a result, Chacón explained in the BFS2020 that the time has come to adapt to the new times that will result from this SARS-CoV-2 crisis, writing new regulations and establishing new measures, including the allocation of more resources to food safety and hygiene.
In conclusion, Miquel Bonet reported at the end of the session that they are already working on the next edition. This, will take place on June 7, 2021 in the auditorium of the World Trade Center in Barcelona. This will be co-organized by the Health Department of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, IRTA and the companies Bioser and Itram Higiene.
We expect you in the next edition!