HQ Fine Foods’ Response to COVID-19
In the face of a global pandemic, our operations look different today than they did last year. HQ Fine Foods has always been guided by the principles of quality assurance, food safety, and sanitation—and that’s still true today. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a rapidly evolving situation, and we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure our essential operations continue as safely as possible.
Our COVID-19 plan
As a food production company, we are an essential service–and the well-being of our employees is essential to us. HQ Fine Foods is adhering to guidelines provided by the Government of Canada, CFIA, and local public health authorities to ensure that our facilities are operating as safely as possible. We regularly communicate current guidelines to our workers to ensure everyone who is in our facility understands the proper protocols to mitigate the risk of an outbreak.
Office workers who can do their jobs from home have been moved to remote work. To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect our associates in our production area; we have also implemented some changes to daily routines and procedures.
Additional sanitation protocols
We have always taken sanitation seriously, providing the standard PPEs (personal protective equipment) to all associates including protective gloves, smocks, hairnets etc.; but we have implemented additional protocols in response to COVID-19, including face masks, visors, and barriers that aid in physical distancing. Entering or exiting the production floor already required handwashing, but additional sanitizing stations have been supplied and are monitored by our QC (quality control) and supervisor teams. In addition, we have implemented multiple daily cleanings of break rooms, bathrooms, delivery trucks, lounges, meeting rooms, and other frequented high-touch areas.
Social distancing and smaller shift sizes
Social distancing has been applied on our assembly lines, with physical barriers as needed. In addition, we have reduced the size of our shifts, staggered start times, and implemented the use of different entrances across shifts.
Daily symptom checks
Before our employees clock in, they are monitored for any signs or symptoms of illness. If a worker shows symptoms or reports feeling unwell, their temperature is taken. Anyone with a fever is sent home immediately with instructions to contact their healthcare provider for further evaluation or testing. Workers who experience symptoms at home are required to report it to our company sick line and discuss next steps.
Restriction of visitors
Unless someone has business with the company, they may not visit our production facilities. If they do, they must complete a symptom screening before entering the facility.
Investigation of confirmed positives
If any of our workers returns a positive test for COVID-19, we immediately begin conducting an investigation. The goal is to determine the nature and scope of the exposure to others as quickly as possible. We work in tandem with local health authorities throughout this process to identify:
- When and where in the facility the employee last worked
- All other employees who were in close contact with the individual
- Any other family members or friends who may work for HQ Fine Foods
After we have determined the full scope of the exposure, we contact any employees who may have been exposed to the virus. The identification of the infected individual is kept confidential throughout this process. Our sanitation teams are immediately dispatched to clean and disinfect any impacted areas (based on the results of our investigation). The management team also evaluates whether or not the facility will need to close and, if so, for how long.
Risk level assessment
Any individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are assessed for their risk level. This risk level is determined based on the Health Canada, CDC, FDA and AHS [Alberta Health Services] Guidance:
- High – living in close contact with a symptomatic individual who has returned a positive result from a laboratory COVID-19 test
- Medium – living in close contact but consistently following recommended home care and home isolation precautions
- Low – being indoors with an infected individual for a prolonged period, but not in close contact (within 6 feet)
High- or medium-risk individuals are not allowed to report to work for 14 days and must return two negative laboratory tests for COVID-19, twenty-four hours apart. Workers who have returned a single positive test cannot return to work until they have not had a fever for 72 hours, other symptoms have decreased or improved, and at least 30 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Food as a transmission source for COVID-19
There is no scientific evidence that food or food packaging is a likely vector for the transmission of COVID-19. In addition, the CFIA recently completed susceptibility studies on domestic turkeys, chickens, and pigs, which found that these animals do not transmit the virus that causes COVID-19. As such, any food produced in or around individuals who have tested positive does not need to be disposed of, so long as good hygiene practices were followed during the food handling and preparation process.
HQ Fine Foods is committed to being flexible and adaptable through these rapidly changing times. Our top priority is ensuring the overall well-being and health of all our employees, suppliers, clients, and customers. While we still don’t know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, we will continue to be transparent about our efforts to ensure the safety of our workers, products, and facilities.