According to Public Health England guidance released on 25th March 2020, it is ‘very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food’. However, procedures to keep those staff working in the food industry are still needed, as is a food safety management system and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) to keep food safe to eat.
Which food businesses should be closed, and which can stay open?
On 23rd March 2020, all Cafés and canteens were required to close with the following exceptions:
- Cafés and canteens at hospitals, police and fire services’ places of work, care homes or schools; prison and military canteens; services providing food or drink to the homeless; and
- Where there are no practical alternatives, other workplace canteens can remain open to provide food for their staff and/or provide a space for breaks. However, where possible, staff should be encouraged to bring their own food, and distributors should move to takeaway. Measures should be taken to minimise the number of people in the canteen / break space at any one given time, for example by using a rota.
Guidance on safe working for those food businesses that have remained open
For food business remaining open, it is important that the usual good food safety practices are followed including:
- Wearing suitable, clean and protective clothing;
- Refrain from wearing jewellery other than a wedding band; and
- Do not touch face or hair when preparing food.
Food handlers and any other staff working within catering areas should be instructed that they must not come into work if they have COVID-19 symptoms including a high temperature and new persistent cough. They should follow government guidance and stay at home.
In addition to this in the current situation, Public Health England also recommend:
- As far as reasonably possible, a distance of 2 metres should be maintained between staff and customers;
- Staff can continue to use rest areas if they apply the same social distancing measures;
- Displaying notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing; and
- Increasing the number of handwashing stations available, if possible.
Staff that work with food should wash their hands on entering the kitchen, before preparing any food, after touching raw food, after touching a waste bin, after cleaning, after coughing or sneezing and after touching light switches, door handles, phones and money.
Public Heath England recommend frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are regularly touched. General cleaning should be in line with the food safety management system.
Food premises offering takeaways
No orders should be taken in person, only by telephone. If collecting orders, collection times should be staggered, and customers discouraged from entering the premises until their order is ready. Businesses should discourage crowding outside the premises and should maintain a 2 metres separation, using queue management systems if necessary.
External contract caterers
Catering companies should be creating and communicating their own policies and procedures about COVID-19, to keep their staff and customers safe and well. Approaches may differ between catering companies however, it is important to work collaboratively to make sure social distancing can be achieved along with regular and thorough handwashing.
Food establishments with customers entering the premises may find the following advice from Public Health England useful:
- Use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms;
- Regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded and social distancing advice can be adhered to;
- Use floor markings to make it clear how far apart customers need to be;
- Encourage the use of contactless payments where possible; and
- Provide additional handwashing and hand sanitiser stations.
Further information can be found at: