(03/19/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — As Louisiana residents take precautions to avoid the spread of coronavirus, LSU AgCenter food safety specialists have developed a set of guidelines to assist retail stores and restaurants in keeping their customers safe.
Wenqing “Wennie” Xu, an AgCenter food safety specialist, and Evelyn Watts, a seafood extension specialist for the AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant, created two easy-to-read fact sheets that explain how to clean and disinfect retail stores selling groceries and how to keep restaurant takeout and delivery customers safe from the virus.
“Retail stores are some of the few establishments that remain open during public health emergencies,” the authors write in the publication for retail stores. “Consumers need to purchase essential supplies, including food and water.”
While Louisiana restaurant dining areas have been closed to help limit person-to-person transmission of coronavirus, restaurants may still sell food available for takeout and delivery.
“Even though the new coronavirus is not a foodborne virus — which means it may not be transferred from food — the proven transmission routes are direct or indirect person-to-person contact,” Watts and Xu write in a fact sheet directed at restaurants. “Therefore, there is a need for strict measures to minimize the risk of infection transmission during food delivery.”
The fact sheet designed for stores, titled “Public Health Emergency Response for Retail Store Managers,” is available at http://bit.ly/2U4tD6I. The fact sheet for restaurants,” Food Takeout and Delivery During a Public Health Emergency,” is available at http://bit.ly/2waMBzr.
In their advice for retail stores, Xu and Watts instruct store managers to watch security cameras or use sales data to decide which departments have the most traffic. These high-risk areas need the most thorough cleaned each day, the authors write.
In most stores, the shopping cart distribution area, checkout lanes and the produce, dairy, cheese and egg sections have the most visitors. Shopping cart handles, cooler and freezer door handles, and shelves in the high-risk sections need the most attention when cleaning and disinfecting the store.
The fact sheet also instructs store employees on how to use chlorine, alcohol and other disinfectants to clean surfaces.
Watts and Xu recommend stores control the flow of customers entering the store and create designated shopping hours for the elderly and other shoppers who are at higher risk of severe medical complications from coronavirus.
They also recommend stores post signs that remind customers to stand 6 feet away from other shoppers in checkout lines in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In their advice to restaurants, Watts and Xu recommend employees take their temperatures and self-report before shifts begin to ensure they are well. Restaurants should minimize employees’ interactions with customers and delivery drivers by clearly marking takeout bags and placing them in a designated area.
Delivery drivers should also clean and sanitize their bags and the interior of their vehicles between each delivery, according to Watts and Xu, and customers should wash their hands immediately upon returning home with takeout food.