Response to COVID-19
The new coronavirus COVID-19 has upended everything considered “normal”. As a small roaster delivering coffee to my customers I take this virus turned pandemic very seriously and have taken precautions to protect my customers. On this page I will detail some facts about the virus as it pertains to food (specifically coffee), list steps that I am taking to mitigate the possibility of transmission, and finally list some helpful references in case you would like to dig deeper on anything to do with COVID-19 and food/coffee.
Facts about COVID-19 and coffee
The FDA deems transmission of the coronavirus COVID-19 through food as highly unlikely since it is not a gastrointestinal virus. Along with this coffee goes through two periods of intense heating, one when it is roasted and the other when it is extracted by hot water. During the roasting phase, green coffee beans undergo heating to surface temperatures above 400 degrees Fahrenheit. During extraction either through the drip process or espresso extraction, the ground coffee will come in contact with water at ~200 degrees Fahrenheit. Both of these periods of heating should neutralize any virus regardless of its ability to infect through the gastrointestinal tract.
Although the most likely form of transmission of the virus is through human to human contact via aerosol droplets. Fortunately this will not be something that we need to worry about since all the Deer and the Bear coffee is delivered through the mail or via dropoffs. Something to consider, though, is the transmission of the virus via surfaces. The time that the virus can survive on surfaces is still somewhat unkown, but according to a paper in the The New England Journal of Medicine:
The scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The results provide key information about the stability of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease, and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects.
The survivability of this virus on these different types of surfaces has led me to change the way I roast your coffee and how I prepare it for shipping. Below I have detailed these changes.
Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.
Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. This includes between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. However, it’s always critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill – to prevent foodborne illness.
Precautions that I am taking
One of the largest vulnerabilities in food preparation when it comes to viruses are the humans that do the preparing. Luckily, this is one of the areas where I have more control than most other companies since I am the only one that is doing the roasting and packaging of the Deer and the Bear coffee. If one of my employees starts to develop possible COVID-19 symptoms I will be the first to know, since it will be me! Be assured that if this unlikely scenario happens, I will immediately stop all roasting and inform my customers of any positive COVID-19 tests. I say that I find this unlikely since my family and I have already been self-isolating for several weeks and we are following all of the best practices sent out by the CDC and NIH.
The only avenue of possible transmission of the virus in the unlikely scenario that I become sick is through the virus attaching itself to surfaces (see above). To help mitigate this I am doing three different things:
- Thoroughly cleaning all worksurfaces and equipment in the roastery before performing any roasting.
- Sticking to a strict hand washing regime (something that I was already doing) and refraining from touching my face or my person.
- Preparing shipments and packaging separately while being very strict with sanitation, including wearing latex gloves.
If you are still woried about the presence of a possible virus on the packaging, I would suggest one or both of the following:
- Wipe down any packaging to sanitize it. This may be something you will want to do with all mail and packages since there are several people who interact with your mail before you recieve it.
- Wait to open your package until more than 3 days have passed since delivery. Your coffee will still be good! Shipping usually happens within a day of roasting and generally your coffee peaks in taste about 4-5 days after roasting.
References and Resources
It’s a confusing time out there. To help mitigate this confusion, I’ve listed some good resources here to help you get educated on the latest information concerning COVID-19. This is virus is a moving target, and even the experts are still trying to get a handle on everything that is happening and what the virus is capable of. These pages should be updated with new information and should be a valuable resource as we all navigate these trying times.