Health and SafetyFlattening the Transmission Curve of COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Infectious Disease Prevention at The Sweet Potato

Staying calm and clear-headed can be hard when headlines clamour about the spread of COVID-19. Toronto Public Health has repeated that the general public’s risk continues to remain low here in Toronto. We take our lead from their evidence-based best-practice.

However, Public Health agencies at every level of the Canadian government have also warned this could change at any time and the implications are heavy. Right now, we also find ourselves in flu season and a hard season at that. Our priority is to ensure we are doing our part to slow down the spread and prevent any infectious disease, particularly as our health care system prepares for a predicted increase of COVID-19 cases.

We are committed to doing what we can to keep our community safe, especially because there are folks among us who are vulnerable to illness. 

Here’s What We’re Currently Doing Around the Store

As a grocery store, we follow strict protocols around food handling. We’ve increased our measures to include:

  • Stepping Up Cleaning. In addition to our existing cleaning regimen, we’ve created a new permanent role within the organization whose primary responsibility is to clean throughout the store during regular business hours (this is over and above the deep-cleaning that occurs after hours). Right now, fridge and freezer handles and doors, and other high traffic areas are being wiped down regularly with a Public Health Canada endorsed germicide that is effective at killing influenza viruses and the novel coronavirus among other microorganisms. 
  • Disinfecting Cart and Baskets. The cleaning of shopping baskets and cart handles is now part of our hourly cleaning schedule. If you would like to disinfect your cart upon entry, please take a disposable wipe located by the Customer Service counter.
  • Hand Sanitizing Stations. You’ll find hand sanitizer stations at the main entrance of the Apothecary, near the Customer Service desk, and outside our Customer Washroom. Please feel welcome to use these during your visit at The Sweet Potato.
  • Thorough and Regular Hand-Washing. Both at regular intervals during shifts, and as we move between tasks and departments, team members are constantly and thoroughly washing hands.
  • Full-Service Bulk Department. Right now in our Bulk Department, our staff will help you fill your plastic bags to limit the number of folks who touch the fixtures. These fixtures continue to be regularly cleaned, scoops and tongs sanitized. Please note that we cannot accept outside containers in our bulk section at present. 
  • Find our Hot Soup Pre-packaged in the Grab and Go Hot Zone. If you regularly grab a hot soup, you will now find it labelled and prepacked in our Hot Grab and Go area. 
  • Bakery Items have been packaged. Loaves, buns, muffins and cookies have been packaged in paper or cellophane. 


  • Stopping Self-Serve Coffee and Free Fruit for Kids. For the time being, we are stopping the sale of hot cups of coffee and our Free Fruit for Kids program. Kids are welcome to grab some stickers from our Customer Service desk. If they need a snack, please ask a staff member to grab a complimentary piece of fruit. They will pick the piece with their caregiver and leave the floor to wash it for you.

Our team’s wellbeing is of paramount importance. Staff who are unwell, stay home. We offer paid sick days and flexible schedules so that folks can take the time to get well. Folks who can work from home are now doing so.

The Best Methods of Prevention

We are all reminded that the best way to protect ourselves and the community from COVID-19 transmission and other colds and flu is through:

  • Regular and thorough hand-washing for at least 20 seconds 
  • Avoiding touching one’s face when in public
  • Social distancing including avoiding large gatherings, and avoiding handshakes, hugs and touching customers and colleagues while at work
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects
  • Encouraging annual flu vaccination to protect ourselves and those most vulnerable in the community
  • Staying home when sick 
  • Coughing and sneezing into a flexed elbow when a tissue is unavailable

Halting Collection of Black Plastic, Returnable Bottle and our Taring Program

We believe we have a responsibility as an employer to help keep our team and the community at large safe. Effective immediately, for the immediate future, we are not accepting any reusable bottles or black plastic back. 

Because many bottles and black plastic are returned dirty and are stored on-site, in consultation with City agencies we’ve determined that to help slow the spread of COVID-19 the safest measure is to stop this practice until further notice. The data on how long this novel coronavirus lives on surfaces is still unclear.

Likewise, we’ve been advised to pause our Taring is Caring program in bulk (that is our customers’ ability to bring their own refillable container to use in our bulk section). These were difficult decisions to make because environmental sustainability is a key element of our business, but we feel this is the best course of action right now to help safeguard everyone’s well-being.

Let us be clear, this is only a short-term suspension. Please continue to keep your bottles and black plastic at home. We’ll be accepting them again soon.


Invested in Stopping the Spread of Misinformation

Toronto has seen a rise in racist rhetoric and xenophobia. We hope you’ll join us in disrupting instances where misinformation is spreading, by keeping in mind that:

  • Adopting good hygiene as described above and avoiding those who are sick will help stem the spread of COVID-19
  • We don’t recommend any natural remedy as a cure-all for any infectious disease. We encourage folks to take the advice of their medical practitioner and to stay home when sick to limit transmission to others.
  • We do not recommend any diet as superior or one that will offer more protection from infectious disease.