What are the safety tips for food expos during COVID-19?
- Put protective screens on stalls
- Sanitize before, during, and after meal preparation
- Clean kitchen tools
- Don’t share equipment
- Encourage contactless payments
Food trade shows may have difficulty organizing events, especially in light of the pandemic. There’s the question of how to control long queues, make meal preparations safe, and ensure the safety of staff members as well. Despite these challenges, there are several safety tips for food expos during COVID-19 that are designed to make the event safer for both participants and attendees.
Even if 2020 just drew to a close, these tips may still be valuable in the future, such as for when expos like WOFEX, AFEX, MAFBEX, IFEX, or the Bakery Fair decide to stage these classic food events live.
As you may already know, restaurants were closed off at the beginning of the pandemic to prevent people from dining in. Staying inside restaurants wasn’t really a viable option, since people would have to gather together in close quarters.
When these establishments finally reopened after a few months, there were several measures implemented. For example, only a limited number of people can sit at a table at any given time. Barriers were also put in place to protect kitchen staff and other employees who were working on-site.
Though the food and restaurant industry share only a few similarities with the food expos — since the operational environment is wholly different — the latter can still take inspiration from the former, especially regarding food safety. Read on to learn more.
Put Protective Screens on Stalls
In collaboration with the event organizers and the venue management, exhibitors of food shows should be mandated to put protection screens or barriers on their stalls. These do not really take long to set up, as they only require few simple materials.
Choose transparent protective films that still allow the attendees to communicate to a certain degree with the food stall participants. These are usually made out of vinyl and can be cut and customized according to the size and dimensions of the food stall.
If there is any need for transactions — i.e. with payment collection or food distribution — stall owners may also cut small openings to accommodate them.
Sanitize Before, During, and After Meal Preparation
Another safety measure that should be followed in food expos and food trade shows is to make sure that the staff is sanitizing themselves before, during, and after meal preparation. As mentioned in the Department of Tourism Memorandum Circular No. 2020-006-A, all F&B service staff shall wear PPE, as well as disposable gloves, hairnets, and apron if necessary.
As you may know, there is a risk for cross-contamination in high-touch surfaces and shared items. To minimize these risks, staff that are involved in cooking meals, cutting up ingredients, and plating should always make it a point to wash their hands thoroughly.
Aside from wearing the proper protective equipment and uniform during the entirety of the trade show, any accessories or loose objects should be removed to ensure they avoid contact with the food.
Clean Kitchen Tools
Kitchen tools and other equipment are also important in the meal preparation process. DOT Memorandum says that all catering equipment, utensils, and other materials shall undergo thorough disinfection and sanitation prior to being brought to the venue. Knives, plates, pots, pans, utensils, stoves, fryers — these are just some of the objects that can be present in every single stall during a live food show. Due to the high tendency that these items may be used by different individuals, it’s important to ensure they’re clean before and after use.
Clean tongs, scoops, forks, spoons, spatulas, or other suitable utensils must be used
In handling and serving food. If not in use, utensils must likewise be well covered. Buffet and salad bars remain prohibited during trade shows. In other cases, buffet and salad bars may be allowed only when:
a. Food servers are provided, and
b. All food trays are with covers (DTI MC No. 2020-39)
Don’t Share Equipment
In traditional food exhibitions, it’s normal for members of the audience to be requested to return some items like food trays, bowls, or beverage containers. However, to accommodate COVID-19 safety protocols, these reusable items should be replaced with disposable alternatives to make sure that nothing is shared among the attendees.
Self-service is also prohibited. Service of F&B shall be done by the service staff to minimize
contact with the items.
The stall owners should keep in mind to always have enough supply of disposable kitchen utensils and objects that will be used solely for the purpose of the trade show. On the part of the attendees, they should practice cleanliness the entire time they’re present in the venue. They shouldn’t leave items on their meal tables and instead throw necessary objects into the proper disposal bins to maintain the level of hygiene in the venue.
Encourage Contactless Payments
Though not mandated, food stall owners should also be encouraged to make cashless/contactless or online modes of payment options available to attendees. Not only are these methods are very convenient, they’re ultimately the safer options compared to cash-based transactions.
Likewise, if stall owners will use contactless devices, electronic fund transfer platforms or payment terminals, they should be inspected before the start of the event to ensure functionality and minimize payment issues.
Participants are also encouraged to go cashless by turning towards barcode payment systems, credit cards, or debit card payments. If online or mobile payment is not possible, cashiers may implement a method for no-contact
payment such as receiving cash on a small tray or leather bill folder to avoid
mutual hand contact with customers.
This simple guide has outlined some safety tips for food expos during COVID-19. As mentioned before, the key priority in a food expo should be safety and hygiene.
Everyone involved in the event — be it venue operators, organizers, exhibitors, contractors, freight forwarders and visitors should be aware of the safety protocols. It is most important that at all times, there should be people who should be enforcing these rules so as to keep the event completely safe for everyone present.