In recent weeks our two top chefs Adam Neal (Exec chef) and Rhiannon Ball (Head chef and Operations Director) have been busy. In light of the recent health crisis caused by that virus, we are doing all we can to ensure our premises and the venues we work in are set-up to minimise the spread of germs. This is standard practice for any caterer, but with the rise of any new health threat, comes new lessons to learn and we are educating ourselves as much as we possibly can.
Useful information about Coronavirus
- Coronavirus causes an illness called Covid-19, which is why you may see the two terms used interchangeably
- Covid-19 appears to vary in it’s severity from person to person, estimates range from 025%-5% death rate, the reason being that we just don’t know how many people have the illness, so mortality rates are likely to be less than the available statistics suggest
- Deaths appear to be most prominent in those with existing underlying health issues and most healthy individuals make a full recovery
- The UK currently has 116 confirmed cases as of Friday 6th March 11:03 am, 18 of which have already recovered and 45 are being treated at home
- One person in the UK has died after contracting the virus, but they had several existing health issues
- Men appear to experience more serious symptoms than women
- The current advice is that most people can continue to go about their lives in the usual way, being mindful of some additional hygiene measures like sanitising their hands, not touching their face and sneezing into tissues
- The WHO has only restricted travel to certain areas and people should not be worried about travelling providing they are taking the necessary hygiene measures
Those in our network and the wider events industry will already be noticing the economic impact of this health crisis and will no doubt be taking measures to combat it. Events are being cancelled, postponed and put on hold amid fears that large gatherings and unnecessary travel will contribute to further spread of the virus. It’s worth reiterating that there are no current recommendations from any governing health body to limit travel or to avoid public spaces, apart from non-essential travel to the recognised ‘hot zones’ of Northern Italy, China, South Korea, Japan and Iran. That said, companies are understandably concerned about the health of their delegates. With that in mind, we are working hard to make sure we are doing all we can to reduce the spread of germs at the events we supply.
Our two most senior chefs have undertaken their level four food safety qualification and the auditing and inspection skills Queen’s Award, which puts them on par with EHO level inspectors in their understanding of food safety and HACCP. They are not only qualified to audit our own premises but also the venues, event spaces and offices that we work in, to ensure they are fit for purpose and we can safely prepare food in each of them.
We still aren’t sure exactly how Coronavirus spreads, although we do know that viral particles can only enter the body through the nose, eyes and mouth, hence the continued advice from health bodies to avoid touching those areas with your hands. We also know that keeping our hands clean is not only the best way to prevent ourselves from becoming ill, but also to prevent spreading germs to others. This is always true and in catering kitchens, we take these measures very seriously on a daily basis. In fact, a catering kitchen may be one of the safest places to work in an epidemic, because chefs and kitchen personnel are habitual when it comes to personal hygiene.
What are we doing differently to combat Coronavirus?
Catering kitchens are already well equipped to prevent the spread of germs, so it is likely that any company with a 5-star hygiene rating will already be exceeding what is necessary in order contain the spread of an illness like Covid-19. Chefs or any other personnel are not allowed to enter the food preparation area in their normal clothes, they must change in a separate room, before starting work for the day. This stops germs from the outside world being carried into areas where food is prepared. The kitchen consists only of hard surfaces that can be easily sanitised, any defects must be repaired immediately. Much like clothing, cracks and crevasses can harbour germs and cannot be wiped down or cleaned effectively, so you won’t find these in a 5-star kitchen.
We still don’t know exactly how robust the virus is, which means we aren’t sure how long it can survive on surfaces, or if it can survive on carpet or fabric. We do know that frequently touched, hard surfaces transmit the virus far more effectively than soft surfaces and touch points like door knobs, elevator buttons, mobile phones and taps require special attention. We don’t allow phones in our catering kitchens, but for the general population it’s good practice to sanitise your phone with an alcohol wipe and wash your hands after touching any of the above surfaces.
Health experts think that it’s very unlikely Coronavirus can be spread through food or packaging and most of the additional measures we are taking relate to personal practices and refreshing all personnel on basic hygiene principles, including non-food handlers. We are staying up to date with all information released by the governing health bodies, incuding the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the NHS and ensuring we are following the most up to date health advice.
Finally and most importantly, we are doing what we can to safeguard the well-being of our own staff, not only by monitoring their physical health and ensuring they only come to work if they are well, but by communicating regularly about our plans to navigate this global challenge.