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Guidance for Food Businesses On Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance for Food Businesses On Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The government have released guidance for all workplaces involved in the manufacturing, processing, warehousing, picking, packaging, retailing and service of food.

The main areas that will be covered in this guidance are:

  • What you need to know about Covid-19 and food
  • Prevention and management of outbreaks – the role of employers
  • Managing Covid-19 cases in the workplace
  • Cleaning and waste disposal

This also includes important information about the risk of community dissemination of coronavirus (COVID-19) from circumstances or activities related to the workplace such as transportation and accommodation arrangements.

This guidance is of general nature and is intended to be compatible with the relevant health and safety legislation, please note that if there appears to be a conflict between this guidance and the relevant health and safety legislation, the latter shall prevail.

What You Need to Know About COVID-19 And Food

Although it is very unlikely that COVID-19 is transmitted through food or food packaging, as a matter of good hygiene practice your staff should wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This should be done routinely, including:

  • before and after handling food 
  • before handling clean cutlery, dishes, glasses, or other items to be used by the customer
  • after handling dirty or used items, such as collecting used dishes from customer tables 
  • after handling money 
  • after touching high-contact surfaces, such as door handles
  • when moving between different areas of the workplace
  • after being in a public place
  • after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Coughs and sneezes should be caught in a tissue or the crook of your elbow

Food packaging should be handled in line with usual food safety practices and staff should continue to follow existing risk assessments and safe systems of working.

Food business operators should continue to follow the Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) guidance on personal hygiene and hygienic practices in food preparation, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) processes and guidance on risk assessment from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Individuals returning to work after an absence of 2 or more days for whatever reason will benefit from a screening process for fitness to work using a monitored screening questionnaire such as the full Fitness to Work guidance which has a sample questionnaire as its Annex 3. Another useful resource is the PHE flowchart describing steps to consider on return to work following a COVID-19 test if relevant.

Food Hygiene Guidance

A Food Safety Management System (FSMS) that includes existing food hygiene guidance and HACCP processes should be followed.

Where you have made changes to your routine ways of working in response to COVID-19 it is important to review your HACCP procedures to consider and reflect any impact from these changes on food safety. The FSA has provided guidance for food businesses on adapting and reopening due to COVID-19 and guidance for food businesses undertaking a rapid shut-down in response to COVID-19.

You should stress the importance of more frequent hand washing and maintaining good hygiene practices in food preparation and handling areas as described above.

The FSA Safe Method checklist allows employers to assess the personal hygiene and fitness to work practices in their workplace.

This guidance addresses the additional measures required for employers and employees of food businesses in response to COVID-19.

The aim of this guidance is to:

  • reduce the risk of COVID-19 cases entering the workplace
  • reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within the workplace
  • reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading from the workplace to the wider community
  • reduce the impact of COVID-19 on output and production from the food industry

Prevention and Management of Outbreaks – The Role of Employers

Employers and managers must take steps to support their staff to adhere to government guidance to keep the workplace safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employers and managers should conduct a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment and prepare and keep updated a business continuity plan.

All controls should be supported by increased visible monitoring and its enforcement by management. It is strongly recommended that there should be visible marshalling by dedicated staff at all points and in particular where staff may congregate or at ‘pinch’ points where people flow into and out of the building or site.

You should conduct regular and appropriate reviews including seeking feedback from staff to identify areas for improvement and to guide individuals not following best practice.

For more information on the following areas, click the button below:

  • Workplace risk assessment
  • Cohort approach
  • Communication with employees
  • Accommodation and Transport
  • Shared accommodation
  • Transport arrangements
  • Safety throughout the facility including entry points
  • Maintaining social distancing within the workplace
  • Communal areas, Staff canteens and restaurants
  • Locker rooms and toilets
  • Within designated work areas and work stations

Managing COVID-19 Cases in The Workplace

Employers need to consider carefully what is expected of them if one of the workers becomes unwell. This section provides guidance on actions recommended if a worker becomes unwell with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and concerning other workers who were in contact with the unwell worker.

For more information on the following topics, use the button below:

  • Case development within the workplace
  • Contact tracing: contact with co-workers
  • Supporting workers who need to self-isolate
  • Outbreak preparedness
  • Multiple cases in the workplace
  • Outbreak management

Cleaning and Waste Disposal

Employers should ensure that objects and surfaces that are touched regularly are cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products.

Guidance on cleaning and waste disposal to help businesses reduce the spread of coronavirus government is available from FSA guidance and PHE guidance.