From fresh bread to food tasting, SA retailers have dumped open food amid the Covid-19 crisis

Business Insider SA
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
  • Checkers, Pick n Pay, and Woolworths now serve open foods very differently, as part of measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • After previous drives to cut down on plastic, foods like bread and salads are now pre-packaged.
  • Self-service open food delis are out, and retailers have canned food tasting stalls.
  • There is no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 transmitted via food, but major chain stores aren't taking chances.
  • For more stories go to 

Checkers, Pick n Pay, and Woolworths now serve previously open foods very differently to avoid unnecessary hands touching it, as part of measures to combat Covid-19.

After previously cutting down on plastic use, retailers are now pre-packaging previously open food like bread and salads, while also banning self-service open food delis and canning food tasting stalls.

Photo Jay Caboz
Biltong in a Pick n Pay open food den is covered with plastic. Photo Jay Caboz

Pick n Pay told Business Insider South Africa all self-service and open fresh departments, such as bakery items, will be temporarily pre-packaged, and a staff member will be available to serve customers, rather than serving it up yourself. 

The retailer has been ramping up its precautionary measure since the outbreak, which included a dedicated hour for elderly shoppers, which it says has been met with an "overwhelmingly positive" response.

The Shoprite Group, which owns Checkers, said it too would be implementing new measures for its open food stalls.

“Bakery products and salad bowls previously openly displayed, are now bagged or tubbed before being put on display.” 

Woolworths said it has stopped all tasting or demo activity in stores due to the close contact (hand to mouth) that this activity requires and in response to customer concerns. It also said it was re-assessing its current food displays. 

There is no evidence of the coronavirus transmitted via food - but retailers aren't taking chances. 

No evidence of SARS-CoV-2 being spread via food has been seen by the United States Centers for Disease Control, the European Food Safety Authority, or the United States Food and Drug Association (FDA).

That also means that international bodies do not anticipate food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market because of Covid-19, as there is currently no evidence to support the transmission of Covid-19 associated with food or food packaging.

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 own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

New research shows the virus can live on copper for four hours, on cardboard for one day, and plastic for three days.

The World Health Organization recommends cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding using the same cutting board when preparing different foods to prevent cross-contamination.

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