SARS-CoV-2 Surface Testing Review
Sanitizing After a Positive
Phone a Friend: Value in Third Party Support
As COVID-19 continues wreaking havoc on the food industry, some manufacturers have added surface testing for SARS-CoV-2 to their arsenal in the fight against the harmful virus. While this test is certainly a useful tool, manufacturers may still be scratching their heads during interpretation of results, next steps following receipt of a positive result, and many other important aspects of food and employee safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
SARS-CoV-2 Surface Testing: Key Reminders
A few weeks ago, we published a blog on surface testing for SARS-CoV-2, but wanted to take some time to recap the key points of using this tool. First, the test is for SARS-CoV-2 RNA, not the intact and infectious virus. That said, the test is an indicator, and the intact, infectious virus may or may not be present on the surface. Employees that have recovered from COVID-19 may still shed viral RNA, but not be spreading infectious virus. Furthermore, there remains no evidence that the virus or its RNA in food has led to any illnesses, and COVID-19 is not considered a foodborne illness.
It is recommended to clean, sanitize, and re-test the positive site in the event SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected. Good wet cleaning with a detergent should allow the RNA to be rinsed away. A strong oxidizing sanitizer such as chlorine, peracetic acid, ozone, and others should also degrade the RNA. Other sanitizers like quaternary ammonium compounds and alcohol, even though they are on the EPA list as being effective, may not degrade the RNA. The CDC has recommended the following additional guidance for restaurants and bars as they continue to reopen:
“Wash, rinse, and sanitize food contact surfaces with an EPA-approved food contact surface sanitizer. If a food-contact surface must be disinfected for a specific reason, such as a blood or bodily fluid cleanup or deep clean in the event of likely contamination with SARS-CoV-2, use the following procedure: wash, rinse, disinfectant according to the label instructions for the disinfectant [a list N EPA Disinfectant], rinse, then sanitize with a food-contact surface sanitizer.”
Uncertainty Creates Opportunity
While valuable guidance exists from CDC, OSHA, and WHO, some food manufacturers are left questioning how to apply certain processes and tools to their particular operation. In looking at the glass half-full, this situation provides an opportunity for businesses to close gaps in their programs that need addressing.
As part of our Safer Stronger program, our scientists and industry experts are able to provide consulting to guide manufacturers through these often-complex circumstances. For example, in the event multiple surface tests come back positive, we recommend contacting our consulting team to review Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs). Our seasoned consulting team leverages decades of experience in food safety and microbiology, including bacteria and virus detection, and will assist in building out your COVID-19 protection strategies and return-to-work protocols to minimize the risk of the spreading coronavirus. Detailed prevention programs can be used for norovirus and Hepatitis A prevention as well as enhanced environmental monitoring programs for Listeria and Salmonella.