Both anecdotal evidence and some research findings are beginning to point to increasing consumer concern with food safety standards and methods, at every stage of the supply chain. Prompted by concerns over contamination and infection risks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many consumers are now beginning to engage in risk-averse behaviour in their food shopping and spending habits.

The Produce Marketing Association Australia-New Zealand (PMA) notes that consumers now place the need for sustainable packaging secondary to the need for wrapped food, probably due to concerns about virus transfer through handling fresh fruit and vegetables. This type of behaviour has a direct impact on spending patterns and habits. If food-related industries want to prosper, paying greater attention to hygiene at every stage of the produce journey is going to be critical to sustainable success. Read on to discover five ways that businesses can provide the food-hygiene assurances their customers now demand.

1. Take additional precautions and communicate these to your customers

Most food-handling businesses have already made significant changes to the way in which they operate in order to minimise the risk of passing Covid on through their sourcing, preparation and/or distribution processes. From ensuring workers wear a mask and gloves whilst preparing food through to taking extra measures to ensure food containers are sanitised, surfaces are given additional cleaning and extra cleaning is carried out throughout the premises, there are a whole host of measures that can be taken to ramp up cleanliness and reduce viral spread.

It’s important not just to implement these sorts of changes, but also communicate to your audience that you are taking these additional steps to protect them from infection. Many of your measures may not be immediately obvious, so letting people know via your social media, website, packaging and similar portals can really help to reassure your customers you’re thinking of their well-being.

2. Make visible changes

Seeing additional hygiene measures being enacted can go a long way to showing customers you’re serious about hygienic food storage, handling and selling. Disposable food containers, single-use utensils, individual sachets of condiments rather than communal dispensers, food handlers in fresh PPE and similar visible signs of hygienic food prep in action all help to send out the right messages. Food-safety conscious customers don’t just want to know what measures you’re taking, they also want to see a real upswing in hygiene measures.

3. Ensure all staff are appropriately trained

As an absolute minimum, all the staff involved in your business are going to need a food handling certificate. In addition, they’re going to need thorough training to work in a way that minimises the risk of Covid (or any other communicable disease) being passed to customers, or to other team members. Formal food hygiene training can go a long way towards ensuring every member of staff has the right knowledge and skills to reduce the risk of spoiled or unhygienic food making its way to customers. Advertising that your staff have recognised food safety qualifications provides additional reassurance for worried consumers.

4. Improve your food-handling monitoring and inspection

Once new hygiene measures have been implemented, it’s vital to monitor compliance over time, as well as seek feedback from staff members and customers regarding how well they’re working. To be adhered to consistently, it’s important that staff adopt the right procedures every single time they’re needed. It can take time for a fresh hygiene routine or different working practices to become embedded into your organisation’s culture. Regular monitoring and inspection to check progress and pick up on any areas where standards are lapsing is a great way to ensure that food hygiene is as good as it possibly can be.

5. Evaluate, review and refine food hygiene practices regularly

Over time, it should be clear to see which policies are working best, and which need some tweaking in order to deliver optimal impact. Some practices may be difficult or inconvenient to adopt: in these circumstances, taking on board views from workers on how life could be made easier can help to increase compliance as well as create a more positive, motivating work culture. If your evaluation shows that your tougher hygiene standards are working well, it’s always an idea to share this good news with your customers.

Consumers feel particularly vulnerable at the moment, so it’s little wonder that they’re prioritising food safety and hygiene. Ensuring your business demonstrates the highest standards of food hygiene at every stage of your operation is a great way of boosting consumer confidence, persuading them that you’re the hygienic provider they want to be doing business with.