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apetito pilots rapid COVID testing with the Department of Health & Social Care and Defra

As Government rolls out asymptomatic testing for people unable to work from home, apetito, the leading meals provider to the health and social care sector is proud to have led the way with a rapid testing pilot.

The company has been piloting Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) since December at its food production and distribution sites in the South-West, testing around 450 of its front-line essential workers.

Under the programme, all apetito’s manufacturing and distribution staff are tested every week, with results available in 30 minutes.  Testing is voluntary and the company reports that there has been fantastic support for the programme across its workforce.

apetito has confirmed that the testing has meant the company can ‘act quickly’ should an individual test positive and has been instrumental in identifying asymptomatic cases. The company now plans to extend the pilot across to more sites across the UK.

According to Lee Sheppard, Director of Corporate Affairs and Policy, apetito received excellent support for the scheme from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and NHS Test and Trace. Testing was mobilised in just 7 days, giving staff and customers reassurance and confidence in the business.

He says:  apetito has a critical role in providing food during the COVID-19 pandemic. We serve some of the most vulnerable and ‘at risk’ in hospitals, care homes, nurseries, and schools.  And ‘at home’ through Meals on Wheels and Wiltshire Farm Foods.

During COVID-19, our services are more important than ever before, as many of our vulnerable customers may be solely reliant upon us for their meal provision.

 “Ensuring our front-line services are able to continue to operate is therefore crucial – working to quickly implement a rapid testing programme across our manufacturing and distribution sites has built resilience into our business – as well as reassuring our staff and customers that we were doing everything possible to support their safety whilst at work.

Having seen the benefits, we were keen to support the Government’s drive for food industry rapid testing – it’s crucial that we all work together to combat this virus and keep essential services running.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said:  “With over 62 million tests processed and more than 7 million people contact-traced since its creation nine months ago, NHS Test and Trace plays a vital role in the fight against COVID-19.

“This is a national effort and a partnership of public and private sectors.  Around one in three people with COVID-19 do not display symptoms, meaning they can infect others unknowingly.  This pilot is one of many which will inform our understanding of how rapid asymptomatic testing can be operationalised in the real world; to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help us go back to as normal a way of life as possible”. 

The rapid testing scheme is built on rigorous procedures already implemented across apetito’s business since March. This includes temperature monitoring of all staff and visitors to site, the creation of working cohorts and staff segregation, extended production lines to facilitate social distancing, one-way circuits, the use of perspex screens within the kitchens and the development of an App-based desk-booking system to control numbers on site.

Expansion of asymptomatic testing will identify more positive cases of COVID-19 and ensure those infected self-isolate, protecting those who cannot work from home and vital services. This programme is crucial given that around 1 in 3 people have coronavirus without displaying any symptoms, meaning they could unknowingly spread the virus to others.

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