Unit 3 Actions for mass caterers in emergency situations (COVID-19)

The COVID-19 virus is transmitted directly through respiratory droplets and through contact with the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose or eyes using dirty hands. The virus can be transmitted indirectly from one work or home surface to another by dirty hands (The Medicines Information System, 2020).

According to the UK Health Security Agency (2022), the symptoms of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections are very similar so it is not possible to distinguish among COVID-19, flu or another infection based on symptoms alone. Most people with COVID-19 will have a relatively mild illness, especially if they have been vaccinated.

Visual taken from freepik.com

Symptoms of COVID-19, flu and common respiratory infections include:

  • continuous cough;
  • high temperature, fever or chills;
  • loss of, or change in, the normal sense of taste or smell;
  • shortness of breath;
  • unexplained tiredness, lack of energy;
  • muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise;
  • not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry;
  • headache that is unusual or longer lasting than usual;
  • sore throat, stuffy or runny nose;
  • diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick (UK Health Security Agency (2022).

The risk of transmission and infection of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases is reduced by:

  • good hand hygiene;
  • use of disinfectant fluids;
  • wearing protective masks and respirators;
  • use of protective gloves;
  • observing coughing and sneezing etiquette (UK Health Security Agency (2022).

Thus, the following measures should be taken in an extreme situation, such as COVID–19 pandemic:

Maintain a clean catering establishment

Visual taken from freepik.com

Hand soap and disinfectant should be always available and easily accessible. If washing hands with soap and water is not possible, the use of hand sanitisers is mandatory. The following disinfectants are effective against coronavirus:

  • alcohol-based disinfectants containing at least 70% alcohol. If a hand sanitiser is not available, the use of salicylic alcohol, which contains 70% medical alcohol, is suggested.
  • for effective hand disinfection, the disinfectant must be rubbed for at least 20-30 seconds. The disinfectant will not be effective if there is visible dirt on the hands.


Protective masks or respirators should be worn all time.


Protective rubber gloves should be worn during the food handling and should be disposed after use.


The service premises shall be ventilated at least once an hour, if available.


Frequently touched surfaces (door handles, staircase handrails, electrical switches, chair supports, etc.) shall be cleaned and disinfected at least every 2 twice a day.


Dishes and utensils shall be washed in dishwashers at least at 60°C or by other appropriate means to ensure that they are cleanliness/safety.


Visual taken from https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/ventilation-in-the-room-and-windows-on-both-doors-gm1252583703-365593189

Maintain good personal hygiene

The most important preventive measure to avoid getting sick or transmitting a disease to somebody else is hand washing and disinfection. Virus particles are surrounded by a layer of fat, which soap destroys and thus kills the virus particles.

Hand washing or disinfection is necessary:

  • before and after putting on and removing personal protective equipment (gloves or face mask).
  • after contact with a person infected with coronavirus.
  • after coughing, sweating or blowing nose.
  • after using the toilet (Washington State University, n.d.).

Visual taken from freepic.com


Observe coughing and sneezing etiquette by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, or, if you are unable to do so, with the inside of your bent elbow (Washington State University, n.d.).


Clean frequently touched surfaces (door handles, electrical switches, tables and other surfaces) regularly with soap and water or disinfectant (Washington State University, n.d.).


Visual taken from freepic.com

As a conclusion, mass caterers must ensure the following:

  • workers must have periodic health checks for possible COVID-19 infection;
  • workers must wear masks correctly (when required);
  • workers must take their body temperature before starting work;
  • disinfection of frequently touched surfaces is done properly;
  • proper hand disinfection of visitors with provided disinfection products;
  • up-to-date information for visitors on personal hygiene and sneezing and coughing etiquette at the entrance to the catering establishment (Food Standards Agency).

Case Study

What is wrong with this photo?

This photo has been staged to show a number of safety hazards and dangerous work habits. See how many you can find. Mark wherever you see a dangerous work habit or hazard. Write a description of the problem. Be sure to tell precisely what the hazard is and why it’s considered unsafe.