AVA sets safety standard of food and drink consumption during pandemic

The Automatic Vending Association (AVA), the trade body of the vending industry in the UK, has reaffirmed its high safety standards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that vending is one of the most hygienic and safest ways for workers to buy food and beverage products when not working from home.

Factors including rising cashless technology, how safely machines are stocked, how long the products are kept in vending machines and the availability of vending machines for our workers all make up this claim.

Since the COVID-19 lockdown, retailers and hospitality businesses have continued to close across the country, meaning vending machines have been the continued source of sustenance for our key workers and workers unable to work from home.

The AVA’s 2019 census survey found the split of sectors where vending machines are most used to be 70% business and industry, 9% education, 9% leisure, 5% healthcare and 4% travel. These show workers such as healthcare, public transport, food production and factory staff have relied on sourcing food and drinks from vending machines while on shift when local cafes and on-site canteens will have shut due to government and scientific guidelines.

Findings from the trade body’s 2019 census highlight an increase in cashless vends from 34% in 2017 to 62% in 2019, with leaders in the industry predicting all vending operators will adopt cashless technology by the end of 2022.

This comes after significant investment in the technology year-on-year and 13% rise in penetration to the pay vend base, bringing the 2019 figure to 36%.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) along with national governments stressed the importance of contact-virus-free payments when the pandemic hit, stating contactless card and mobile payment systems are the safest ways to pay as no contact or object (cash) is transmitted from one person to the other.

Food hygiene and safety is in the DNA of the AVA’s operating companies. Snack & Soft Drink vending machines are stocked from the back and run forward, meaning products are likely to be inside the machine without any other human contact for more than 72 hours, the longest amount of time the virus has been recorded to live on a surface.

Vending machines are also stocked by one highly qualified cleaning and maintenance worker at a time, which in comparison to a canteen diner or coffee shop with two to three employees handling food at the time of consumption, significantly decreases the spread of infection. The machine itself then dispenses a clean single use yet recyclable cup to its customer.

AVA’s chief executive David Llewellyn comments: “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the essential need for packaging in all material formats to ensure the continued availability of food and beverages in a manner safe, hygienic and free of contamination.

“For the working person, whether they are returning to the office or continuing as a key worker in the public sector, we believe products available in vending machines are one of the most sanitary ways to eat and drink during the pandemic.

“The Automatic Vending Association is here to set the standard for its members, to have a positive impact on their customers and in the end the consumer. At this time of great uncertainty and consumer anxiety, these standards are important as ever.”

As well as applying safety standards to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AVA is also actively navigating the business uncertainty around Brexit, the HM Treasury’s single use plastic tax consultation, Defra and Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme, European legislation on energy classification and the possible levy on single use cups.