Tallahassee, Fla. – A new global survey of consumers has found that a majority are concerned about food safety. When considering food purchasing habits, 55 percent of consumers said food safety was a concern, with 53 percent of consumers citing health issues, according to the survey conducted by DNV GL, a Norway-based risk management firm. Consumers desired “more information and transparency on product content and how food safety is secured from farm to fork,” as well as “hygiene practices adopted to prevent contamination and allergens or potentially dangerous ingredients.”
Florida’s food safety agency is the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which oversees more than 40,000 grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, and food manufacturing businesses. FDACS routinely inspects these establishments and provides food safety guidance to consumers and businesses, including in March at COVID-19’s outset in Florida.
“As Florida’s food safety and consumer protection agency, we know that Floridians care deeply about the quality and safety of the food they feed their families,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Particularly with COVID-19 posing a huge threat in Florida, we’re working closely with the businesses we oversee to ensure proper food safety measures are taken, and we’re encouraging consumers to be smart at home about food safety.”
“As millions of Florida consumers visit food establishments each day, it’s crucial that we communicate with these businesses to ensure the best sanitization practices are being followed. This is critical to reducing the transmission of bacterial and viral pathogens and lessening chances of spreading COVID-19,” said Dr. Matthew Curran, FDACS Director of Food Safety. “We want to remind businesses and consumers to wipe down hard surfaces before use, and maintain clean hands with thorough hand-washing or hand sanitizer of at least 60% alcohol content.”
According to the survey, 85 percent of consumers trust the food safety of branded packaged products, while 80 percent trust non-packaged food items, and 69 percent trust unbranded packaged products – although less than half of consumers trust brands fully. Regardless of how food products are packaged or branded, businesses and consumers can take the following food safety precautions to ensure food is safe to eat:
Studies have shown that human coronaviruses can persist on inanimate surfaces like plastic, glass, or metal from two hours for up to nine days. Therefore, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and FDACS recommend the following food safety tips for consumers:
- Wash your hands often when cooking, including: before, during, and after preparing any food; after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs; before eating; after touching garbage; after wiping counters or cleaning surfaces with chemicals; after touching pets, pet food, or pet treats; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- Wash your hands even when wearing gloves, as contaminated gloves can spread germs to your hands when removing the gloves.
- Disinfect and dry commonly-used surfaces such as countertops and cutting boards, as dampness can help remaining viruses survive and multiply.
- Use disposable cloths or paper towels when possible, or wash reusable cloths at 140 degrees Fahrenheit after each use.
- While there is no evidence that fresh produce (or other foods) can transmit the virus, wash all fruits and vegetables under running water.
For Retailers/Food Establishments:
FDACS is reminding these businesses of the following requirements (Rule 5K-4.002, Florida Administrative Code and FDA Food Code) to ensure food safety and reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19:
- Food preparers must keep hands and arms clean, and follow cleaning procedures including washing at least 20 seconds with hand cleaner and rinsing under warm running water.
- When to wash includes: after touching body parts; after using the restroom; after caring for animals; after coughing, sneezing, or using tissue; after using tobacco; after eating or drinking; after handling soiled equipment during food preparation; after handling raw food and working with ready to eat food; before donning gloves; and after any other activity that contaminates hands. (Chapter 2-301)
- There is required to be at least one hand washing sink (Chapter 5-203), that handwashing sink must be convenient to employees and or immediately adjacent to toilet rooms (Chapter 5-204), and handwashing supplies such as hand soap and cleanser and drying devices such as towels or heated air devices for handwashing sinks are required to be present (Chapter 6-301).
Consumers and businesses with questions about food safety practices can call the FDACS Division of Food Safety at (850) 245-5520 or email FoodSafety@FDACS.gov. Questions about human health-related impacts of COVID-19 should be referred to the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 center at (866) 779-6121 or COVIDemail@example.com.
About the Survey: The DNL GV ViewPoint survey was conducted in March 2020 using web-based methodology, and involved 4,500 consumers across 15 countries in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia.