Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently coordinating a global response to reported outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), an atypical pneumonia presently of unknown origin. Health Canada has received reports of cases of SARS in Canada. To date, all cases can be linked to travel to affected areas (Hong-Kong Special Administrative Region, Singapore, China, Hanoi - Vietnam), or direct contact with these individuals i.e., household contacts and health care workers or their household contacts.
Given that we do not know the role, if any, respecting the transmission of SARS through food, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) considers it important to remind the food industry to review their food safety control programs, (including Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP), Quality Management Program (QMP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)) to ensure that hygiene and health requirements are being adhered to in order to prevent contamination of food with any potential pathogen.
Employees should be advised of the information contained on the Health Canada website, www.sars.gc.ca or http://www.sars.ca concerning SARS. This provides direction for individuals, who may be presenting symptoms consistent with SARS, in order to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
The CFIA reminds those handling food products that personal hygiene is essential for food safety. All food handlers must, therefore, maintain a high standard of personal hygiene and cleanliness in order to avoid transferring pathogens to foods and between employees. The following requirements should be followed to prevent the contamination of food:
· All persons entering the food handling areas should wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. Hands should be dried with a paper towel and a paper towel. should be used to turn off the taps. Hand washing must also be carried out after using the toilet, coughing or sneezing, or blowing one’s nose.
· Clean clothing, uniforms and aprons should be worn by all food handlers. Uniforms or aprons should not be worn outside the food processing area. Hair restraints should also be worn at all times when handling food.
· Food handlers should avoid touching their nose, mouth, hair and skin during food handling.
· Personal effects and street clothing should not be kept in food handling areas and these articles should be stored in a manner so as to prevent contamination.
· Access of personnel and visitors should be controlled in food processing areas.
Food processors, distributors and importers are also reminded that they should have policies in place to prevent personnel, known to be suffering from any communicable disease that may be transferred through food, from working in food handling areas. Employees should advise management when they are suffering from such illnesses and cease working with food.
For additional information on SARS, please contact:
Health Canada’s information line at 1-800-454-8302
Ontario Health's information line 1- 888-668- 4636
or refer to the following websites:
City of Toronto http://www.toronto.ca/health/sars/index.htm
Ontario Government http://www.health.gov.on.ca/