COVID-19 Disinfectants for Contact Surfaces

By Andrea Moore, EHS 2

As food service establishments are reopening their dining areas to patrons, there have been questions as to what kind of disinfectants can be used for tables, countertops, and other commonly touched areas in a restaurant. Many restaurant owners and managers have expressed concerns about mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 by ensuring the cleaning products that are used in their facility to clean and disinfect common contact surfaces are effective against the virus.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the List N:  Disinfectants for Use Against COVID-19 that includes EPA registered surface disinfectants including wipes for contact surfaces only. Disinfectants kill germs on surfaces which can further lower the risk of spreading infections. The EPA expects products on this list to kill the virus because they demonstrate effectiveness against a harder to kill virus or another similar human coronavirus.   Hand sanitizers, antiseptic washes and antibacterial soaps are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, won’t be listed on the EPA list. However, if EPA-approved List N disinfectants are not accessible, unscented bleach can be used as an alternative disinfectant. Please keep in mind that you want to always read and follow the directions on the label to ensure safe and effective use.  If wiping food contact surfaces, such as dining room tables, be sure to follow label instructions for use on food contact surfaces. 

The following are instructions for using bleach as an alternative disinfectant:

  • 1/3 cup of unscented bleach added to 1 gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with other cleaning and disinfecting products because this can cause fumes that are very dangerous to breathe in.

Additionally, the links below have been provided for EPA- approved disinfectants and tips for using disinfectants safely and effectively:

EPA-approved disinfectants

Six Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use (PDF)

As we continue the fight against COVID-19, enhancing sanitation by disinfecting common surfaces regularly will help to prevent the spread of the virus. For example: Disinfect tables between diners, clean and sanitize table condiments, digital ordering devices, check presenters, self-service areas, tabletops and commonly touched areas, and discard single-use items.

We appreciate your cooperation and diligence to maintain a safe and healthy environment for patrons during these uncertain times. We will get through this! Thank you for all that you do !

You can find additional resources anytime on the CDPH website or foodsafety.gov. As always, don’t hesitate to contact your inspector with any questions or concerns.

FREE COVID-19 testing is available – registration is required www.cdphcovid19testing.org

Heads Up: Imposter Inspectors!

Recently, health departments in different parts of the state, including locally, have been notified of persons coming into—or calling– food service facilities posing as health inspectors.  One report states that the imposter told customers that they needed to wear face coverings or they had to leave.  Some imposters have even demanded money on site.  None of this is protocol for any of our Environmental Health Specialists.  Please train your staff to ask for identification of anyone representing any agency before allowing them into your food service operation.  In addition, we do not levy fines in the field or require the payment of fines before performing your inspections.  If you receive a call from such a person, please try to document the phone number being used and report it to the police department.

To assist you with staff training and preparation in this area, please view our Food Safety Partnership Panel #3 video on Food Defense located on our website and prepare a response plan for your facility using the FDA’s A.L.E.R.T. guidance document at http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodDefense/ToolsEducationalMaterials/ucm353774.htm

Please let us know of any occurrence of inspector impersonation– and use extra caution during these challenging times.

~ Karen Gulley, Food Program Manager

Special Serving Styles

By Idelia Ulmer, EHS4

Georgia’s Rules and Regulations for Food Service 511-6-1 allow for special options for serving food in restaurants.  This post helps to distinguish between some of the special options that are available.

Cafeteria-Style Buffet

All food is displayed, BUT food workers are responsible for serving the customers, handling the utensils, and ensuring proper distancing in lines.  Cafeteria style may be applied to Salad Bars, Dessert Bars, Cold and Hot Food Buffets, etc. provided that:

  • Sneeze guards/shields must be designed or modified to protect all food from customer exposure and direct access. If ends are not closed, shield angles must continue along all exposed sides (3-sides) with a height of at least 18 inches from counter height usually – without openings to prevent customer access.  Exception: Units may be in-line with other equipment to prevent (food) access from unshielded sides.
  • For serving food refills, servers must use new tableware (plates, bowls).

Traditional Buffet-Style

Buffets may be reopened for customer use if hand sanitizer is available at the buffet, sneeze guards are in place, customers socially distance while going down the line, and utensils are changed out regularly.

Hibachi Grill  

At table-side, food service employees grill food for immediate service to the customer. Limit the amount of food stored at hibachi grill to what is needed for service two one sitting of people. Returned and/or remaining ready-to-eat foods must be discarded.

Family-Style

A group of customers are seated at a table for one sitting.  Servers bring ready-to-eat food to the table in large serving dishes. Dishes are passed around for each person to serve their own plate. Remaining or returned food must be discarded. [Family-style self-service may have additional requirements and require health authority’s approval before facilities implement this serving style].

Important Reminders

All food service facilities must comply with Georgia Rules and Regulations Food Service 511-6-1.

Ensure that preventive measures to protect against the exposure and spread of COVID-19 among your patrons and workforce are in place. as required by Governor Kemp’s Executive Order.

Updated Food Service Reopening Guidance Tools Are Now Available!

As more food service operations are opening their dining rooms, operators are reminded of the need to comply with the requirements found in Governor Kemp’s Executive Order from May 12, 2020 and to stay alert for any additional updates.  The Georgia Department of Public Health has updated its  COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS WITH DINING ROOM SEATING  to reflect updates in the Executive Order.   

To assist operators with their plans for compliance, the National Restaurant Association has released its Reopening Guidelines training video as the 3rd tool in its series of free COVID-19 response videos for food service facilities. All three training videos are available in English and Spanish and are presented via ServSafe, the organization’s educational arm.  The Reopening Guidelines presents an overview of important actions that help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by applying new sanitation and disinfecting practices, and recognizing new social distancing requirements that are key components to safely reopening food service operations.

Updated Isolation Period for Workers with COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control has updated its recommended time required for workers to return to work after the onset of symptoms of a COVID-19 infection.  The time period has changed from 7 days to 10 days. 

As a result, the Georgia Department of Public Health has updated their COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS WITH DINING ROOM SEATING to reflect this change.  Now it states that “An employee with known or suspected COVID-19 must follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to self-isolate for at least ten (10) days after symptom onset and end isolation only after symptoms have improved and the employee has been fever-free and/or symptom-free for three (3) consecutive days without medication before returning to work.” 

Please replace the previous guidance document with this updated version.

You’re Open, But Are You In Compliance?

We have seen an increase in reports of non-compliance as restaurants have begun reopening their dining rooms, as allowed by Governor Kemp’s Executive Order from April 23, 2020 if specific measures were taken to ensure customer and employee safety.   To assist with compliance, Columbia County government has produced a poster that summarizes the thirty-nine requirements specified in the Executive Order.  In addition, the Georgia Department of Public Health has provided COVID-19 Guidance for Restaurants with Dining Room Seating.  Keep in mind that ALL food service employees are required to wear face coverings regardless of whether in-house dining is offered or not.  Face coverings include– but are not limited to– cloth face masks and bandanas. 

Upon investigation by our staff, non-compliant facilities will receive a Notice of Violation that will include instructions for achieving compliance.  Continued violation of the Executive Order will prompt contact with local law enforcement to further address the issue. 

Please contact your local Environmental Health Office if you have questions about what is needed to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cobb Environmental Health: 770-435-7815

Douglas Environmental Health 770-920-7311.

Guidance Document Now Available for Restaurant Dining Rooms

The Georgia Department of Public Health has issued a guidance document to assist restaurant operators that would like to reopen their dining rooms to their customers.

If you have reopened your dining room or are contemplating doing so and have questions related to this or other aspects of your operation, please feel free to contact your local Environmental Health office (Cobb: (770) 435-7815; Douglas: (770) 920-7311) for assistance.

Staying on Top of Key Drop Deliveries!

By Addie Zuniga, EHS2

An important duty of the person-in-charge (PIC) is to ensure the integrity and proper sourcing of food products received. This includes reviewing invoices, examining packaging, and verifying proper internal temperatures of Time-Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods as it comes into the facility. It’s the duty of the PIC to make sure packages are examined at the time of receipt, in order to reject any items that may appear damaged or tampered with, or TCS foods that are outside the safe temperature range.  But what about key drop deliveries?

Many food distributers run overnight routes, and this allows facilities the option of overnight deliveries. This is known as a “key drop delivery” – when food deliveries are dropped off in a kitchen, often inside a walk-in cooler, while the business is closed. This can be a convenient set-up, but how would the PIC maintain active managerial control over these deliveries when employees may not arrive at the facility for several hours after the truck has left?  The PIC must designate someone to look for damaged packaging or recalled products upon arrival, allowing those to be set aside for return and not served. However, temperature abuse can be hard to identify, especially if the TCS foods have already been in a walk-in cooler for a long period of time since delivery.  For example, there would be no way for the PIC to know if the refrigeration in the delivery truck had failed and that the TCS foods were transported for several hours in the temperature danger zone overnight, thereby posing a significant food safety risk. Therefore, it is not enough that a PIC simply verify internal temperatures of TCS foods when they arrive at the facility after a key drop delivery.

If a facility is considering key drop delivery, they must establish procedures with the distribution company, that the delivery drivers would be required to follow. There should be a written agreement in which the drivers are tasked with verifying and documenting the internal temperatures of a sample of TCS foods at the time of delivery, for the PIC to review. This is most often achieved by the driver noting the temperatures of various items on the invoice which is then left behind with the delivery.  These procedures may vary, but they should be detailed in the agreement. The PIC should maintain the right to reject these products, even after the driver has left, if they are not satisfied with documented temperatures or other conditions. This policy provides the PIC with the information they need to maintain managerial control over these products, and to know that they are safe for service.

This contract and procedure between the facility and the distributor must be approved by the health authority prior to key drop deliveries being implemented. The PIC should also keep a copy of the signed contract, as well as a recent sample of documented delivery temperatures, onsite for review during each health inspection. This documentation indicates to the health inspector that the PIC is maintaining active managerial control, and that foods are arriving safely and from approved sources.  If you are interested in key drop deliveries, please review the Key Drop Deliveries guidance document produced by Georgia Department of Public Health and our website for additional information. 

Operation Meal Plan: A New Opportunity for Local Restaurants

Operation Meal Plan (OMP) is helping local restaurants to keep their workers employed while providing meals for those in need.  Participating food service establishments receive orders in increments of 25 meals to be prepared for a non-profit organization that provides meals as part of their mission.  OMP was created by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Cobb Community Foundation, the Center for Family Resources, and local non-profits.  Restaurant owners/operators interested in participating may contact Nate Futrell at NFutrell@cobbchamber.org.

Governor Kemp Issues COVID-19 Executive Order Affecting Restaurants and Bars

On March 23, 2020, Governor Kemp issued an executive order for the entire state that bans public gatherings of 10 or more persons and ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs (as defined by Code Section 3-1-2(2.1)).  Restaurants that are not able to maintain customers at a personal distance of 6 feet apart are to close, but they may continue to provide drive-thru and takeout-only service if that option is available.  In addition, the “medically fragile”—those more susceptible to the virus due to medical conditions, such as those in long-term facilities–are ordered to shelter in place.  This order goes into effect at noon on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 and is scheduled to end on Monday, April 6, 2020.