Flu Season is Still Here: Break out the Foodservice Packaging!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2018-2019 flu season is in full swing. This provides an excellent opportunity to point out the sanitary benefits of single-use foodservice packaging and remind operators of their role in minimizing the spread of this not-so-fun infectious disease.

For operators of foodservice establishments, protecting their customers and employees during flu season must be a top priority. Since flu viruses spread mainly from infected person to person through coughing or sneezing, and thus into the ambient environment and surfaces, it is vitally important for foodservice operators to sanitize, not just their tables and countertops, but also the surfaces of door handles and frames throughout their establishments.

While providing a sanitary environment for foodservice customers should be an operating norm, it is absolutely crucial for operators to be “sanitary sensitive” at this time of the year. This is especially important in foodservice venues that serve vulnerable populations, such as long-term care facilities, day care centers, schools and hospitals, where the spread of infectious disease has its most serious impact.

Here are a few more ways foodservice operators can create a sanitary environment:

  • It’s no surprise that our first recommendation is to provide paper, plastic or aluminum foodservice packaging for food and beverage items. Multiple studies have shown that single-use foodservice packaging products are significantly cleaner than reusables. In FPI’s last study of single-use versus reusable service ware, over one-third of the reusable plates and bowls, one quarter of the reusable cutlery and nearly one-fifth of reusable cups tested had higher than acceptable microbial levels. Gross.
  • Ensure that the table or tray that customers eat off of is sanitary by using a paper placemat or tray cover. The use of paper placemats or tray covers provides a more sanitary eating surface than uncovered tabletops or trays. According to one study conducted in Wisconsin, placemats were shown, on average, to have over 7 times fewer bacteria than uncovered tables in restaurants. Similarly, tray covers were shown, on average, to have as much as 23 times fewer bacteria than uncovered trays in hospitals, lodging and long-term care facilities.
  • Stress the importance of proper hand washing to the entire staff. This means washing hands with soap and water with vigorous rubbing for 20 seconds after sneezing and coughing, after using the restroom, after handling money and before handling or eating food.

These are all simple, easy steps operators (and frankly, all of us) can take to make sure 2019 is a healthy new year.

For more resources related to sanitation and foodservice packaging, please go to www.fpi.org/resources.flu season

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