COVID-19 advice for food businesses

For latest Government Guidance and resources for food business operators, see guidance at www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-businesses/guidance-for-food-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19.

On 23 March the government, stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives. All non-essential premises must now close.

Advice from central government is changing daily so we advise you to regularly check the GOV.uk website for updates relevant to your business operations.

Premises that are permitted to trade and those that are not

Guidance on which premises are permitted to remain open and those that must close can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance.

Advice for businesses that are permitted to still trade

For businesses that are remaining open the following guidance must be followed, which can be viewed at www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19.

Advice for those already permitted to be open and for those planning to reopen when permitted

Guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the Coronavirus pandemic has been made available.

This guidance contains information on what to consider and how to plan for working during the pandemic. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe. Read the full guidance at www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

Advice for reopening your food business and adapting your food business during the pandemic can be read at www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/reopening-and-adapting-your-food-business-during-covid-19.

Use the drop down menu below for further advice and guidance.

If you have made any changes to your menu ensure you have reviewed your allergy information. There is also a wealth of advice for businesses on allergen management on the FSA website. Do not serve people with a food allergy or intolerance if you cannot guarantee that their food has not been contaminated with their specific allergen.

Label takeaway meals clearly, so your customers know which dishes are suitable for those with an allergy.

See also www.ambervalley.gov.uk/allergensinfood for information, a video and food allergen management tool for caterers to complete.

In England, as announced on Monday 16 March, the government will provide a business rates holiday for businesses and premises in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector. This includes the businesses and premises in scope for closure listed above. This will apply automatically to your next business rates bill in April 2020. For more information please visit gov.uk.

See Gov.uk for information on support available.

More information can be found at www.ambervalley.gov.uk/business/coronavirus-advice-for-businesses.

You must also maintain food hygiene procedures and ensure you have a supply of soap for hand washing and antibacterial cleaner to enable you to clean and sanitise your preparation surfaces.

The supply of cleaning products such as liquid hand-wash and chemical sanitisers has, in some instances, been affected by a high level of demand from businesses and consumers. It is important that, where food businesses remain operational, they ensure that they have a reasonable supply of:

  • Detergents
  • Disinfectant/sanitiser
  • Cleaning materials
  • Hand soap

Hot water is, of course, essential; especially for washing hands. The need for sanitising hand rubs is less important as the emphasis remains with effective and regular hand-washing; using liquid hand soap and running water.

Do not forget to regularly sanitise all hand-contact surfaces and any equipment that customers come into contact with.

All food businesses should have a cleaning schedule in place regardless of the COVID-19 emergency. During the current emergency cleaning of all hand contact points is even more important as is using the correct type of disinfectant. Guidance regarding how to clean effectively can be found via the links below:

Guidance for community cooking and food banks can be viewed at www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/food-safety-for-community-cooking-and-food-banks.

Everyone is instructed to comply with the rules issued by the government in relation to coronavirus, in order to protect both themselves and others.

A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence.

The Police, Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations. Businesses and premises that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, fixed penalty notices and potentially unlimited fines.

Authorised officers can take such action as is necessary to enforce the requirements of the regulations.

Limiting contact when delivering orders will help keep everyone healthy, so you should leave a 2m distance between you and the person you are delivering to. For example leave deliveries at the door of your customer, rather than handing it over to them.

Knock on the door, step back at least 2 metres and wait nearby for your customer to collect it.

Take payments over the phone or internet rather than taking a cash payment. After each delivery staff must sanitise their hands on return to their vehicle and thoroughly clean them on return to the business premises. Always wash hands after handling cash.

Guidance for safe food delivery can be viewed at www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/food-safety-for-food-delivery.

See Gov.uk for information on support available.

The following checklist highlights the essential labelling-related requirements for safely and legally redistributing surplus food, and the additional requirements when freezing food to be redistributed. Read in full at wrap.org.uk.

For information about support for business, please go to the government’s business support webpage or visit gov.uk.

Under the current Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 ice cream vendors are not listed as a business that must close. Ice cream vendors can operate in the usual way however social distancing measures must be followed. In practice this would include:

  • ice cream vehicles displaying signage requiring customers to queue 2 metres apart
  • making regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly
  • placing plexiglass on the vehicle if feasible, as an additional element of protection for the vendor and customers
  • encouraging the use of contactless payments where possible, without disadvantaging older or vulnerable customers
  • operating a pre-order and delivery service may be an option you wish to consider

The COVID 19 government guidance for food businesses as a takeaway premises should be adhered to and can be read at www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-businesses/guidance-for-food-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19.

Members of the public purchasing foods must adhere to social distancing guidelines and stand at least 2 metres apart. See the latest government guidance at www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing for further information.

You have responsibilities to ensure food handlers are fit for work under food hygiene regulations and you have a general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of persons in your employment and members of the public.

Relevant staff must be provided with clear instructions on any infection control policy in place, and any person so affected and employed in a food business and who is likely to come into contact with food is to report immediately the illness or symptoms, and if possible their causes, to the food business operator.

The government have issued guidance on COVID-19 for employees and businesses, this can be viewed at www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic many business and their premises are temporarily closed. Therefore there is a risk of legionella developing in water systems that remain dormant. Business owners, landlords and any property managers must be aware of this and put into place procedures to control that risk. We have put together a guide that will help you to stay safe and protect others, read guide.

A free online leaflet produced by the Health and Safety Executive regarding legionella, including a short guide, can be viewed at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg458.htm.

A more detailed guide on how to control legionella and can be downloaded free at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l8.htm.

All foods must be delivered to consumers in a way that ensures that they do not become unsafe or unfit to eat. To help ensure such activities are carried out safely, we recommend the following procedures are implemented:

  • only use reputable suppliers
  • all food must be protected against contamination
  • high risk ready to eat (RTE) foods must be kept covered using lidded containers, cellophane/aluminium foil tightly wrapped over the plate/bowl of food. Only use food grade disposable containers
  • raw foods, if any, to be completely segregated from RTE foods
  • vehicles used for deliveries must be maintained in good condition and clean
  • if packaged foods are delivered in outer containers (insulated boxes/trays/boxes etc) these must be cleaned and disinfected between deliveries
  • hot foods must be checked to ensure they reach safe temperatures on cooking/reheating (above 750C) and be hot (above 630C) at time of despatch. Such foods must be delivered in insulated containers to maintain temperatures and should
  • reach the customer as soon as possible, ideally within 30 minutes but no longer than 2 hours
  • high risk cold foods must be below 80C (ideally below 50C) at time of despatch and should be delivered as soon as possible, ideally within 30 minutes but no longer than 2 hours. The use of insulated containers is advisable
  • any returned containers must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to re-use. Upon collection such returned items should be placed in a dedicated tray/box for transport back to the business premises
  • staff must practice the highest standards of personal hygiene at all times

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have provided advice for business – 'How to manage a food business if you sell products online, for takeaway or for delivery'.

Ensure your food safety management system for example your safer food better business pack, available at www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/safer-food-better-business is updated to include deliveries and any other changes you have made to your business to ensure the food you serve is safe.

During step 2, from 12 April 2021, food and drink may be consumed on the premises but only 'outdoors'. 

Some venues may wish to erect outdoor shelters. To be considered 'outdoors', shelters, marquees and other structures can have a roof but need to have at least 50% of the area of their walls open at all times whilst in use.

For full guidance see www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/restaurants-offering-takeaway-or-delivery.

Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with guidance but customers must be strictly controlled.

The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone. You need to minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals. This advice applies to both inside the food business and in the external public areas where customers may need to queue. People should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds and more frequently than normal.

The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances. This may be best evaluated by the store manager, however a few general indicators may be relevant to the majority of retail outlets:

  • use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the shop if they have symptoms
  • regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
  • use floor markings inside the commercial spaces to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as serving counters and tills
  • use vertical signage to direct customers into lanes if feasible to facilitate movement within the premises while maintaining 2 metre distance
  • make regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly
  • place plexiglass barriers at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers
  • encourage the use of contactless payments where possible, without disadvantaging older or vulnerable customers
  • provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser Further information on social distancing and adults who are at increased risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found on GOV.UK.

Guidance for food businesses on Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be read at www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-businesses/guidance-for-food-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19.

See also food delivery and take way guidance from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health at www.cieh.org/media/4070/covid-19-food-delivery-and-takeaway-guidance.

We understand you may wish to change your business model and diversify what you do to include providing take-aways and delivering food directly to customers. A business will only be in a position do this if they are registered as a food business with a local authority. If you are not already registered you can register at www.ambervalley.gov.uk/business/food-safety/registering-a-new-business/.

Scientific advice is that it is very unlikely that COVID-19 can be spread through food, but, if you are changing how you are used to operating then you must think through the hazards and ensure that you have control measures in place to protect yourself, your employees and your customers.

Need further help or information?

Contact the team directly on 01773 841335 or email foodsafety@ambervalley.gov.uk