FROM THE CEO - MICHAEL SIMONETTA

2/4/2020

“At Perfection, we are single-minded about bringing the very best fruit and vegetables to the people of Australia and across the world.

The health, wellbeing, and satisfaction of all our customers, growers, and employees are core to who we are and what we do.

The rise of COVID-19 has had unprecedented impacts globally.

At Perfection, we were onto this situation very early, putting in place various measures to raise awareness and prevent transmission. Our response to COVID-19 is driven by our Perfection Crisis Team, consisting of the Chief Executive Officer and key senior leaders. The team meets daily to assess the situation, and identify and mitigate any risks to our people, customers, growers, and the business overall.

We communicate with all our stakeholders regularly, and work closely with various associations to keep supply chains open so we can continue to feed Australians at this critical time.

Our employees, who are central to our smooth operation, receive daily COVID-19 updates from the CEO, and we publish both business and support information on a dedicated portal via our intranet. Many of our people work from home, where possible. On site, we provide fact sheets in various languages, videos, posters, and other resources from the Australian Government’s Department of Health to inform our diverse workforce. We reinforce all Federal Government advice and restrictions, and have put in place stringent requirements for visitors and people who move between sites to prevent cross-contamination. Most of all, we help our people manage the stress of this situation by sharing support information from key mental health sources.

At this time, we are prepared as never before, so we can continue to serve you.”

 

3 Myths about Fresh Produce & COVID-19

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FRUIT AND VEGETABLES ARE SAFE TO CONSUME

The Australian Government Department of Health has established a website with up-to-date information on the virus. Visit the website. The Australian Food Standards website has general advice about Food Safety. Visit the website.

Everyone should practice good hygiene when preparing and handling food.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued precautionary recommendations including advice on good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, they include:

  • washing hands between handling raw and cooked foods
  • thorough cooking and proper handling of meat products
  • covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
  • avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing

HEALTHY EATING AND COVID-19

Eating fresh fruit & vegetables is a great way to support your body’s immune system. Here’s what an Accredited Practicing Dietitian has to say about fresh fruit & vegetables and coronavirus.

While you’re at home it’s the perfect time to use your favourite fruits and vegetable and maybe try a new recipe or two.

Here are some great recipe ideas for:

did-you-know

Q&A

Can I get the coronavirus from fresh produce?

There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread via food. It is not a foodborne virus. The primary transmission of COVID-19 is through respiratory droplets (coughing/sneezing) from person to person.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand advises transmission through food is unlikely and there is no evidence of this occurring with COVID-19 to date. Investigations into how the virus spreads are continuing.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released a statement noting there is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus. Read the statement

It is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

 

Can I get the coronavirus from the outside packaging of pre-packed produce?

There is low risk of transmission from product packaging. Whilst coronaviruses can live on various surfaces from hours to days outer produce packaging is not airborne or inhaled, and normal food hygiene and handling practices should be adhered to e.g. washing and drying etc.

The United States Department of Agriculture has advised it is not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

 

Could there be transmission of COVID-19 in the food supply?

Australia has in place strict and comprehensive food handling and safety regulations. Having said this, everyone should practice good hygiene when preparing and handling food. The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued precautionary recommendations including advice on good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation. These include:

  • washing hands between handling raw and cooked foods
  • thorough cooking and proper handling of meat products
  • covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
  • avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness,such as coughing and sneezing

 

In relation to COVID-19, does it matter if fresh produce is raw or cooked?

Normal cooking of fruits and vegetables would be enough to kill coronaviruses. For raw fruit and vege – normal peeling and or washing and drying is enough.

 

Do I need to wash my fresh produce in soap and water?

No. Wash fresh produce in water only. Here’s what the specialists say:

  • Food Standards Australian New Zealand (FSANZ): “Transmission through food is unlikely and so far there is no evidence that people have become infected by swallowing the virus in or on food or drink.”
  • European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): “There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus. Expe- riences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.”
  • Dr David Cox, Principal Research Scientist from the CSIRO: “In a time of misinformation the best advice to follow is the advice of trusted sources based on the most up-to-date scientific evidence. That’s why we are urging Australians to follow the latest advice from FSANZ that COVID-19 is not transmitted by food.”
  • US Food and Drug Administration (FDA): “There is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmis- sion of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. This virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.”

 

Here’s what we should be doing:

The ARC Training Centre for Food Safety in the Fresh Produce Industry has released a statement advising:

  • Do not wash fresh produce in soap or detergent
  • Soap is not designed for use on food and any residues on fresh produce can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested
  • Wash your hands with soap or use a sanitizer after handling your groceries and fresh produce
  • The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) says to wash fresh fruits and vegetables in cold water.

 

Hort Innovation has released this video of Jemma O’Hanlon, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist, explaining how to give produce a quick clean.

 

What happens if someone picking or preparing produce catches COVID-19?

As a rule, we adhere to current best practices in relation to existing food hygiene and handling practices set out by regulatory authorities. This includes making sure employees do not handle food if they’re unwell or have an illness. Our employees who handle produce always wear gloves and other protective equipment.

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