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How Canada's largest produce supplier is protecting your food
TORONTO -- The country's largest food terminal, which supplies produce to grocery stores across Canada, has started using infrared thermometer guns to screen all employees and visitors.
Beginning in April, anyone entering the Ontario Food Terminal is subject to a temperature check at the gate of the facility on The Queensway in Toronto, and anyone with a temperature higher than 38 C is denied entry.
It is the latest measure amid sweeping changes to fight the spread of COVID-19 at the food terminal, where one employee is presumed to have been infected last month.
"It's a night and day difference," Steve Bamford, President of the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association, told CTV News Toronto. He said the terminal has designated zones for employees and buyers in order to maintain physical distancing.
"Buyers have to stay at their trucks," Bamford said. "They can't walk around like they used to be able to. They have to phone in their orders, there's people in the warehouse that make up the orders, and then there's also designated people on the docks to run the product."
The Ontario Food Terminal sources internationally, then distributes more than two billion pounds of produce annually to thousands of businesses across Canada. Officials say they are ensuring employees do not come into direct contact with the produce.
"Product will come in for distribution, it'll be received in cartons, and shipped out in those same cartons so no one is actually physically touching any of the product," Bamford said. "The terminal has also enacted that there is a no-return policy once product has leaves the property, so we're not receiving product that could've been handled by someone."
It is estimated demand at the facility overall is down about 15 to 20 per cent since mid-March, due to closures in the hospitality industry.
Meanwhile, the retail side of the business has increased in volume, as more consumers are purchasing fresh produce from the grocery stores.
Paediatrician Dr. Dina Kulik warns that while many distributors and stores are implementing preventative measures, consumers who bring their groceries home should sanitize their product, especially before putting items in the refrigerator or freezer.
"There is some evidence that other coronaviruses can live in freezer temperatures for a couple of years," Dr. Kulik said. "So while we don't know exactly how long COVID-19 can live in cold temperatures, I would assume that the fridge or the freezer is not going to kill COVID-19 off the surfaces."
Dr. Kulik said it's best to use sanitization methods that have been proven to be effective, like using soap and water, products with more than 70 per cent alcohol, or bleach products.
"If you live your life assuming that everyone you come in contact with has a COVID infection, even if they're asymptomatic, and every surface has COVID on it, that's how you can best protect yourself.”