As the Italian region of Lombardy tightens coronavirus related restrictions to include vending machines, the Automatic Vending Association (AVA) has issued new guidance to address members’ concerns.
The new guide stresses that even as restrictions are brought in in Lombardy, ‘vending machines remain an open and safe channel for consumers to purchase food and beverages’ and there is no increased risk of using vending machines for drinks and snacks.
Never-the-less, we would like to provide the following advice and guidance to consumers:
• Please sanitise your hands before touching the buttons on a vending machine
• Don’t cough or sneeze on a vending machine
• Keep a distance of at least one metre between consumers
• Choose a single use cup over a reusable one.
The spread of the coronavirus is causing great uncertainty among consumers and customers, and we would like to reiterate that vending machines are a reliable and safe way to obtain food and beverages. Vending machine operators, fillers and technicians place food safety and hygiene as top priorities in their daily service and are trained in both personal hygiene and protection against infections. During the current health crisis, operators have also put in place measures to ensure that the disinfection of machine surfaces is also carried out as regularly as possible.
Consumers can be confident that the drink or snack purchased from the vending machine is safe. The disposable vending machine cup – which has recently been the subject of much criticism – is considered the safest and most hygienic way to consume a beverage.
Finally, the AVA would like to confirm that as a provider of food and beverages, the vending industry is considered a supplier of ‘essential services’ during the restrictions and lockdowns seen in many European markets, and remains open 24/7 as a useful channel for convenient consumer purchases.
Vending operator guidance:
When an operator enters a building, they should wash their hands if they think the standard of hygiene in the building is OK. If not, they should wipe their hands with an alcohol wipe.
Operators should, like all food operators, avoid touching their face.
If they are filling a snack machine, they will not be passing on anything because hands are not good at passing on contamination. When finished, the operator should wipe the keypad and dispense area with an alcohol wipe. If they are cleaning a drinks machine, they should make sure the parts they clean are bone dry when they have finished.
When they have finished with the machine, the operator should wipe the nozzle and the keypad with an alcohol wipe.
What about machines where an operator is subsequently diagnosed with coronavirus?
Whilst there is no clear evidence about whether you can pick up the virus from a surface, this is recognised to be a less common route than getting it directly from another person. Viruses do not stay alive for long periods on surfaces and will be removed with detergent and hot water.
Therefore, someone going to a machine which has been refilled by someone who is subsequently diagnosed with the virus is highly unlikely to catch the virus from the machine. The best thing to do is to clean the surface of the machine that an operator needs to touch with detergent and water, dry it and wipe over with an alcohol wipe.
COVID-19 and SURFACES
According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, touching a surface or object with the virus and then touching one’s own face “is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads”. Even so, the CDC, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health authorities, have emphasised that both washing hands and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily are key in preventing Covid-19’s spread. An NIH study found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, similar to Covid-19, survives for longer on cardboard – up to 24 hours – and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces. The findings suggest the virus might last this long on door handles, plastic-coated or laminated worktops and other hard surfaces.
Research has shown that coronaviruses can be deactivated within a minute by disinfecting surfaces with 62-71% alcohol, or 0.5% hydrogen peroxide bleach or household bleach containing 0.1% sodium hypochlorite. Higher temperatures and humidity also tend to result in other coronaviruses dying quicker.
Best practice from the Government offices and other organisations:
• The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided guidance for British people travelling and living overseas More here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19
• The official guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care, and Public Health England, is here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
• NHS guidance: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/