Latest Government rulings for England – September 2020

Following the recent flurry of government announcements, rules affecting hospitality and catering businesses in England have changed. To help you find your way through the forest of information, The Safer Food Group has created a summary of the changes that affect the food industry, and come into force from 24th September 2020. We’ve also updated a number of our courses, including Level 2 Food Hygiene and Level 3 Food Hygiene, with guidelines to help you keep your food business Covid-19 safe. We’ll update these guidelines as we learn more about changes in the devolved UK nations

Face masks

Customers in hospitality venues must wear face coverings, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. This means, your customers will need to wear a mask on entry to and exit from your premises, and if they leave their table to visit bathroom facilities

Staff in hospitality and retail will now also be required to wear face coverings. This ruling applies to all staff (except those with specific exemptions), including those in takeaway food businesses.

For our pack of free covid signage templates, including mask poster, click here

Closing time

Businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants), social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls, must be closed between 10pm and 5am. This will include takeaways, although delivery services can continue after 10pm.

Table service only

In licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, served at, and consumed at a table. This includes those licensed premises with outdoor service areas.

In any premises selling food or drink for customers to consume indoors on site, customers must eat and drink at a table.

Display NHS Test and Trace QR

Venues will now be required to display a QR code in their venue, to allow customers to register their visits with the NHS Test and Trace app. To create a QR code for your business, visit this site and complete your details

Businesses are also required to continue their own collection of customer and staff data that began in July – here is our previous post on collecting data if you need a reminder how to do this.

Important Links

For full details on September 24th rule changes: click here

For more information regarding the NHS Test and Trace scheme, click here

For more information from the Government about the role of your business in Test and Trace, click here

For more information from the ICO about keeping Test and Trace data safe, click here

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

Food Hygiene and Health & Safety courses offered by the Safer Food Group

What is a Food Safety Management System / HACCP?

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Every food business in the UK has a legal responsibility to:

  • make sure food is safe to eat
  • make sure it doesn’t add, remove or treat food in a way that makes it harmful to eat

A very important part of fulfilling this legal duty is creating a Food Safety Management system, using the principles of Hazard analysis and Critical control points (HACCP). HACCP is a system that helps you identify potential food hazards and introduce procedures to make sure those hazards are removed or reduced to an acceptable level.

These procedures will help you produce and sell food that is safe to eat, providing you:

  • keep up-to-date documents and records relating to your procedures
  • regularly review your procedures to ensure they reflect what you produce or how you work

Creating a HACCP Food Safety Management System

To create a comprehensive food safety management system, you will need to consider the entire journey of the food you produce, starting with the source of your ingredients and covering areas such as food handling, storage, cooking, cleaning and staff training.

A great resource to help you with this is the Safer Food, Better Business resource provided by the Food Standards Agency. This book walks you through each area of your business and tells you what you need to look out for, what records you need to keep, and how often you need to review your processes.

Safer Food, Better Business highlights the importance of good record keeping when producing food that is safe to eat. Good records will instil a culture of diligence within your food business and will also help prove to an EHO that you are doing things right.

The key records that most food businesses will need to keep are:

For more information, The Safer Food Group offer a Level 2 HACCP awareness course that looks into each area of Food Management in closer detail, explaining how to get it right – and what can happen when you don’t!

Important Links

Free 14 allergens poster

How do I keep my restaurant allergy-safe?

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You might think that getting your food business allergy safe is a hassle – but think about the consequences of being careless with ingredients that have the potential to kill. If you put the right processes and procedures in place and everyone follows them, you can be sure you are doing your best to keep your customers, your kitchen and your reputation safe.

So, what are the steps you need to follow to make your kitchen allergen safe? This list is not a comprehensive guide – you must ensure that you are properly trained to implement a successful allergen policy in your business – but it is written to show you that making your business allergen proof is logical and achievable, and shouldn’t be intimidating.

Preparation

Step 1 – Understanding

Ensure that you have adequate food allergy training to fully understand the risks of allergenic ingredients and the best practice you must use to ensure a safe business. This is not as simple as just keeping peanuts out of your kitchen!

Step 2 – Ingredients Audit

Be aware of every ingredient that you use in your kitchen, whether cooked in house from individual ingredients or pre-prepared. For every element of every dish, make a list of all ingredients and highlight the 14 known allergens.

 Tip: Don’t forget drinks, condiments and sauces – did you know that malt vinegar contains gluten, for instance?

Step 3 – Process walk through

Walk through the entire ‘life’ of a dish in your kitchen – from delivery, through storage, preparation, service and clean down, considering what would happen if an allergen was present in that dish. Identify points where cross contamination could occur, and how you can prevent it by measures such as:

  • Separated storage and prep zones for allergens 
  • Specific equipment 
  • Clear identification of specially prepared meals during service
  • Efficient clean down and separate pot wash routines

You may decide that you cannot guarantee that allergenic ingredients can be eliminated from dishes – if that is the case, you must communicate this to your staff and customers, to allow them to make informed decisions about their food.

Step 4 – Write it down! 

Once you’ve completed the walk through and decided what you will do to keep allergens isolated, you must write it down in a clear, logical way that can be followed by any team member involved in any stage of the process.

Training

Once you have gathered all of the vital information, you have to pass it onto the relevant staff. Think about different roles in your business and their contact with allergens, as well as their contact with customers

Train your staff clearly in the processes they need to follow when working with allergenic ingredients. It is useful for front of house staff to have an understanding of food prep process, and food prep staff to understand how the front of house team operates. Create a culture in which they are happy to ask questions and seek advice if they don’t understand or have forgotten their training.

Think about how you retrain your staff when dishes, processes or legislation changes, and how often you refresh their training.

It is vital that you include allergen training in your induction programme for new and returning staff.

Communication

Consider the clearest ways in which you can communicate ingredients info to customers. It is a legal requirement to communicate the details of which dishes contain the 14 listed allergens, but some customers have allergies that are not covered by the list, and being able to inform them accurately of all ingredients in all dishes will help your reputation as a responsible business.

The key message for you and your staff when it comes to communication is NOT TO GUESS THE ANSWER TO AN ALLERGEN QUESTION. ’I don’t know’ is always an acceptable answer, if the member of staff then seeks out the correct piece of information. Teach your staff:

Collecting Customer Data for NHS Test and Trace

Understanding how to gather data and what to do with it

The easing of lockdown restrictions means a return to business for many in the hospitality sector. However, this is not ‘business as usual’ – pubs, cafes and restaurants are expected to operate in very different ways in order to minimise the risk of spreading infection – including the collection of data to support the NHS Test and Trace scheme.

Guidelines released by the UK Government request that businesses where customers eat and / or drink on site collect data that can be supplied to NHS tracers if someone on those premises is later found to have contracted Covid-19. The purpose of collection is to alert others who might have come in contact with an infected person and therefore be at risk themselves. This does not apply to businesses that sell takeaway food or drink for off site consumption only.

What data should be collected?

Data should be collected for everyone on your premises – including staff, customers and other visitors if you have them. You may already gather all relevant data as part of your staff rotas and your customer booking system – if so, there is not need to collect it again, as long as you inform people that you will submit this data to the Test and Trace scheme on request, and customers are given an option to opt out of this. If you don’t have a system already in place, you might want to use our templates to do so – click for our customer record, staff record and visitor record.

The following details should be collected:

Staff:

  • Name
  • Contact phone number
  • Dates and times present at work

Customers:

  • Name of ‘lead member’ of group and number of people in group
  • Contact phone number of ‘lead member’ of group
  • Date of visit, arrival and departure times (estimated if necessary)
  • If they interact with a single staff member, the name of the assigned staff member 

Think about your method of collection – if you are asking for data on arrival, will the customer type in details on your device, or write down using your paper and pen. If so – how will you minimise the risk of transmission via these objects? If you ask them to tell you the information and you complete the form – how will you ensure their details are not overheard by another customer?

Data protection

Although businesses should encourage customers to provide these details, the customer does have the right to refuse to supply data. Any data you collect must be kept privately and securely, should be held for 21 days, and should be securely destroyed after this time period has elapsed, whether held as paper or digital records.

Important Links

For more information regarding the NHS Test and Trace scheme, click here

For more information from the Government about the role of your business in Test and Trace, click here

For more information from the ICO about keeping Test and Trace data safe, click here

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

Food Hygiene and Health & Safety courses offered by the Safer Food Group

Covid-19 Risk Assessment in Food Manufacturing environments (part 1)

Working Safely during the Covid-19 Outbreak

The welcome news that food businesses are slowly returning to normal also creates a dilemma for business owners and managers. Many have been hit with difficult financial situations and now must balance business as normal with increased safety procedures designed to protect staff and customers.

Unfortunately, a number of food manufacturers, both in the UK and on the continent have hit the headlines as covid-19 infection rates have peaked amongst staff. Risk assessments, new policies and procedures and increased equipment and PPE can feel like an unbearable burden for the employer – however, taking a responsible and safe approach to managing risk will give businesses the best chance of survival into and through the financial challenges we all face.

Covid Secure Guidelines

A quick internet search brings up a huge amount of information and guidance for returning to business within a pandemic situation. It is easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of forms and links, recommendations and legal advice. The following advice is based on the Government’s Working Safely during the Covid-19 outbreak and links are provided at the end of the article.

Work from home if you can

  • All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close…you should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.

Clearly in a food production plant, a large number of staff will need to be on site, to carry out day to day work. But think creatively – does that apply to all staff? Can admin and planning staff do some or all of their work from home? Reducing the number of people on site is a positive move, as long as it doesn’t compromise safety.

Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions

  • This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation and employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place.
  • If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.

Manufacturing businesses should be very familiar with regular and thorough risk assessments, as dictated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE): see below for HSE examples of risk assessments for Food Preparation and Factories. The Safer Food Group’s Level 2 Health and Safety Course offers a detailed explanation into conducting and carrying out an effective 5 point risk assessment plan; and we have given more detail about this very important process in the second part of this article. Managers and employers who have already taken this course can review their existing plans and add the specific hazards and risks created by covid-19 to ensure they are operating safely.

Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible

  • Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain 2 metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

Allowing space between people is a fundamental step to minimising transmission of coronavirus – thereby protecting your staff and maintaining a healthy and effective workforce. Do you have space to spread out operations? Can you repurpose warehouse space or use temporary cover in outdoor areas to increase distance between individuals?

Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk

  • Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

Whilst this might potentially feel like a considerable upheaval and expense for a manufacturing plant, employers and managers must not lose sight that, in most businesses, their people are their most expensive and valuable resource. Even on a small scale, absence of workers has serious implications on production and therefore profitability; the potential of coronavirus to spread quickly throughout the workforce must not be underestimated. Introducing shields, barriers and PPE can feel like an unnecessary expense, until it is compared with the cost of extra recruitment, temporary staff, sickness pay, and retraining – even in economic terms, it is a risk not worth taking.

Reinforcing cleaning processes

  • Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide hand washing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.”  

Regular cleaning and handwashing are two of the most effective ways of minimising spread of the virus. Workers in a food production environment should already be well trained in handwashing techniques, but there is no better time to reinforce the importance of taking responsibility for personal hygiene. Use the Safer Food Group’s handwashing video as a training resource, and make sure everyone is up to date with the appropriate level of Food Hygiene training.

For more information on the advice above, visit the Gov.uk and HSE websites and for further detail on conducting Risk assessments, follow this link to the second part of this article.

Important Links

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/factories-plants-and-warehouses

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm

https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/downloads/COVID-19_-_Risk_Assessment_Tool_for_Re-starting_Food_Business_Operations_During_COVID-19.pdf

https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/pdf/foodprep.pdf

https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/pdf/factory.pdf

Covid-19 Risk Assessment in Food Manufacturing environments (part 2)

Undertaking a Covid-19 Risk Assessment

The welcome news that food businesses are slowly returning to normal also creates a dilemma for business owners and managers. Many have been hit with difficult financial situations and now must balance business as normal with increased safety procedures designed to protect staff and customers.

Following on from, Covid-19 Risk Assessment in Food Manufacturing environments (part 1): Working Safely during Covid-19 outbreak, this article briefly discusses some of the added risks posed by Coronavirus within food manufacturing environments.

Manufacturers should already be familiar with undertaking and implementing risk assessments as part of standard operations. The threat of covid has introduced a number of new risks and hazards that need to be considered, but the 5 point risk assessment plan (as detailed in the Safer Food Group’s Level 2 Health and Safety course) is an effective tool to use in the face of this new challenge.

An employer is legally responsible to protect their employees from harm at work https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/index.htm – failure to do so can lead to prosecution, considerable fines and even prison sentences. A risk assessment should be carried out by a competent person who has adequate experience and oversight but involving workers in the process is a very good idea as this can often highlight hazards and risks unforeseen by managers or business owners. A very comprehensive example of a covid-19 risk assessment within a food business has been compiled by Food Standards Scotland , and examples of standard risk assessments for factories and food production are available via the HSE.

  • Identify the hazards

Hazards are processes, environments or physical objects that may cause harm. In normal circumstances, you would have identified hazards by considering:  

  • Working processes and practices
  • Plant and equipment
  • Chemical and substances
  • Working environment

In the current climate, you will need to consider a new hazard – the transmission of a highly contagious virus that has the potential to cause serious harm to a large percentage of your workforce if left unchecked. This could be within your business premises, or outside of your premises if you despatch goods or send people to work outside of your premises.

Write this down – either in additional to your normal workplace risk assessment, or as a specific document that addresses Covid-19 as an individual risk. If you would like to use our Risk Assessment template, click here.

  • Assess the risk

How likely is the hazard to occur, and how much harm could it cause?

Unfortunately, in this case, the hazard could cause very significant harm. In business terms, you could experience a depletion in your workforce meaning you cannot continue day to day business, or you could transmit the virus to your customer, damaging your reputation. In personal terms, anyone who contracts the virus may be at risk of a considerable period of sickness, long term health effects or even death.

Think about the ways the virus can enter and be transmitted around your business. The current strain of Coronavirus has been shown to be particularly resistant and robust, surviving both in the air and on surfaces for considerable lengths of time. This is one of the reasons it has become such a dangerous disease.

Consider any person or object coming into your premises as a potential carrier of the disease, and think about their journeys as they move around your premises. At what stages in these journeys do people come into contact with other people or objects? Do workers share equipment, touch the same surfaces, work within a small area?

In your risk assessment, write down all the instances in which a person touches a surface or object that might have been touched by someone else – whether handling stock, ingredients or finished goods, sharing equipment or working in a shared workspace. Consider all of the times within a working day they be in close proximity to another person – don’t forget to think about break times, and periods before work when staff may gather to get changed or access leisure areas, rest areas and lockers.

As part of your assessment, you will need to understand if some people are at greater risk than others, either because of the job that they do, or because of their personal characteristics. Current guidance suggests that no specific groups of the population are unaffected by coronavirus, and as such you must consider all members of staff at risk. However, it is sensible to consider extra measures for those specifically identified as vulnerable, such as those with underlying health conditions, older people and pregnant women.

Add this information to your risk assessment document, so you remember to look at each group individually.

  • Control the risk

Consider all of your examples in your risk assessment one by one. For each of them, you should aim to ELIMINATE the risk whenever possible – examples would be to:

  •        Monitor staff infection levels. Ensure that you have a clear reporting method for any staff that report covid symptoms, and that staff and managers are aware that any suspected cases must remain away from work premises as per government guidelines.
  • Introduce a clear social distancing policy, that details how people should behave at all times whilst on your premises.
  •        Eliminate shared equipment: create individual named kit for every worker, and specify how this kit is kept apart from others’.
  •        Introduce clear zoning, so that each worker has their own obvious workspace. Enforce this with bold wall and floor signage and visual cues such as colour coding
  •        Close areas of congregation – this may mean that staff are not able to use on site facilities such as canteens if you are not able to provide adequate space for social distancing.
  •        Outsourcing elements of production if you cannot safely undertake them in house.
  •        Quarantine non perishable items that come into your business for a 72 hour period. For perishable items, you could create a suitably temperature controlled quarantine area as long as you are able to operate within use by dates

If you are unable to ELIMINATE any of your identified risks, you must take adequate steps to MINIMISE them. This might include:

  •        Regular cleaning schedules for plant and equipment that has to be shared by workers, ensuring surfaces are sanitised between each use.
  •        Provision of shields between workspaces if individuals are not able to keep at least 2m apart
  •        Provision of appropriate PPE if workers are likely to come into close contact with one another.
  •        Staggered breaks and work schedules to minimise the number of staff on premises at any point in time.

Handwashing remains one of the single most effective ways of reducing infection levels, so on top of any measures identified above, you must ensure staff have regular assess to clean, hot water and soap and are encouraged to use it on entering the premises and before and after touching surfaces and objects, on top of the normal levels of handwashing required to maintain good hand hygiene.

  • Record your findings and implement them

Add the control measures to your risk assessment document and put everything in place to allow these control measures to take place.

A vital part of this step is COMMUNICATION. In order for your control measures to be effective, everyone must understand their role in the process and carry it out. The best approach to communication is to start with a face to face discussion, that allows workers to ask questions, and gain a good understanding of your new control measures. Follow this up by a simple written document that allows them to remind themselves of the process, and use simple, bold signage within the workplace to remind them of the most important details.

During the communication stage, do not be afraid of feedback given by staff – listen to what they have to say. Their understanding of some work processes may be greater than yours, or they may have more effective ideas of how to deal with the risk. It may be useful to revisit your plans in light of staff feedback – working in a collaborative way that recognises the contribution of others is more likely to result in an effective plan that the whole team can adhere to.

  • Review your assessment and update if necessary

In light of the rapidly changing situation with Covid-19, you will need to monitor and review your measures on a regular basis to ensure their effectiveness. Some measures, such as staff absence levels should be monitored on a daily basis, in order to identify and deal with any unusual rises as quickly as possible.

Observe your control measures in action. Do they eliminate or minimise risk in the way that you intended? Do they introduce other, unconsidered risks (for instance – does increased handwashing create congregation points at sinks?)?

Keep lines of communication with staff open, seek and listen to their feedback and be prepared to adjust control measures if they are not effective. Whilst this is a period of adjustment and is unsettling for everyone, demonstrating that staff welfare is of genuine concern is very likely to have a positive long term effect within your workforce, as well as protecting your future business.

Important Links

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/factories-plants-and-warehouses

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm

https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/downloads/COVID-19_-_Risk_Assessment_Tool_for_Re-starting_Food_Business_Operations_During_COVID-19.pdf

https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/pdf/foodprep.pdf

https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/pdf/factory.pdf

I want to start food deliveries – do I need a license, or special car insurance?

To deliver prepared food / meals to customers, you need to be registered as a food business, via your local authority. If you run an existing food business and want to start delivering food orders, you need to consider any new or different risks posed by this change. You will need to work through your Food Safety Management System* to make sure any food you sell in this way remains safe to eat.

Planning rules were relaxed on 17 March 2020 to allow pubs and restaurants to operate for 12 months as hot food and drinks takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak. However, businesses that do this must tell their local authority when the new use begins and ends.

The Association of British insurers have confirmed that if you are using your personal vehicle to deliver groceries or other essential goods to people, as long as you are not including a delivery charge, you do not need to update your insurance cover.  If you are charging for deliveries, you should contact your insurance provider/ broker to check if they can extend your vehicle insurance to cover home delivery.

*Your Food Safety Management System, sometimes referred to as HACCP, is the system you create that considers the safety risk of every element of your food operation and puts measures in place to eliminate or minimise those risks. See TSFG’s Level 2 HACCP course for more details.

Can I train while on furlough?

We know how frustrating it can be. For some staff, the first weeks on the Job Retention Scheme felt like a welcomed break from busy lives. But now you’re keen to get back to work and thinking of ways to ease you back into your job. Renewing your food hygiene certificate, or even increasing your skills and knowledge with a Level 3 award feels like a great way of making the most of your time and showing your employer how much you’ve missed them!

But are you allowed to undertake a training course if you are furloughed? And is your employer allowed to ask you to train during your time away from the office? In most cases – YES! Your employer can ask you to undertake training related to your work, as long as you are not making money for your employer or providing services to your employer.  If your employer has asked you to train then you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage / National Living Wage (or the equivalent apprentice wage) during the training, even if this is more than your 80% subsidised rate of pay during furlough. 

Of course, you are allowed to take courses that you choose and pay for yourself during this time – at The Safer Food Group, we have found a lot of our learners have chosen to take our Nutrition course during time off. There have been some great deals available for training courses during the pandemic, and it’s a good time to concentrate on learning that new skill or hobby that you’ve just never found time to do. BUT – do be cautious of signing up to courses that advertise themselves as free. Choose reputable suppliers, such as FutureLearn and OpenLearn, who are very clear about their genuinely free courses. Many others come with small print that reveal you become liable for fees after 4 weeks, or require you to pay back the cost of the course if you do not complete it. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification of terms and conditions in writing before you sign up.

What is Legionnaires Disease? Do I need to worry about it when I reopen?

Legionnaires Disease is caused by Legionella bacteria, which live and breed in temperate, standing water and are then transmitted through airborne particles. Any premises that has been closed down for two or more weeks may have unintentionally been breeding this potentially fatal disease. Water systems, condensers, coolers, A/C units and tanks which have reached temperatures of 20-45 degrees C, may now harbour the bacteria – and no-one wants to face a new biological enemy in the wake of a global pandemic!

Ideally, water systems will have been flushed out, chemically treated and properly closed down before lockdown, but many businesses will not have considered this risk before they locked their doors earlier this year. If that includes your business – you are not alone. The HSE has issued guidance about what to do in this situation. Follow their guidance and risk assessment here . And if necessary, call on the services of a local expert to ensure your water system is risk free before you open up to staff or customers.

7-point plan for dealing with the threat of Coronavirus in a catering premises

The key to defeating the threat of all pathogenic viruses is to break the chain of contamination. And this strategy applies as much to tackling Coronavirus in small catering premises as it does to governments dealing with the threat globally.

Guidance

Clearly Coronavirus represents a real, and in all likelihood, a sustained threat. It’s quickly become the biggest topic of conversation online, in the media, and in the park (standing a safe distance apart), resulting in huge amounts of information circulating. It hopefully goes without saying that the vast majority of this is inaccurate and misleading speculation and opinion. Rather than following the opinions of certain presidents or other uninformed reality stars, we recommend you prioritise advice from the following sources, and in the order its listed:

  1. Follow the guidance of the UK Government (Gov.uk or equivalent region)
  2. Follow the advice of your Local Authority Environmental Health team (EHO)
  3. Follow the advice of The Foods Standards Agency (food.gov.uk)
  4. Follow the advice of your professional body or trade association (for example NDNA)

Physical measures

The catering industry has for a long time used physical barriers, for example, plexiglass screens, to reduce contamination and protect food. Every food premises now needs to consider their increased use in applying social distancing between individual customers, between individual Food Handlers, and between the two. PPE including masks and visors are all generally recommended subject to a risk and needs assessment. It’s important that all catering premises that involve attendance by the public implement appropriate efforts to promote and support social distancing, including posters, limiting the numbers inside premises, floor marking, stewarding (staff allocated to control at busy times), and consider leaving doors open to help circulate air and minimise contact points. Can customers be served outside or via delivery to prevent the need to enter the premises at all?

Hand hygiene

Washing your hands regularly using the approved hand-hygiene technique explained in TSFG’s food hygiene courses is crucial to prevent the spread of pathogenic viruses. Wash your hands immediately on arrival at work, between changing food handling tasks, and after breaks, touching deliveries, cleaning, and coughing or sneezing into them. Coronavirus is destroyed by detergents, in other words ordinary soap, which breaks down the protein shell of the virus destroying it in the process. Hand-sanitisers that contain +70% alcohol content have also proved effective against Coronavirus in tests.

 What works: Detergent (soap) and hot water, hand sanitiser +70% alcohol.

 Not effective: Antibacterial wipes, antiseptic wipes, disinfectants.

Cleaning

Following your approved premises cleaning schedule has a vital role in breaking the chain of contamination. Pay particular attention to cleaning and sanitising door and cupboard handles and push plates. Detergent (physical effort and hot water) remains one of the only effective approved chemicals for a food premises. (Household bleach and surgical spirit have also proven effective in destroying Coronavirus, however neither are currently approved for general sanitising use in UK catering premises).

What works: Detergent (soap) and hot water.

 Not effective: Disinfectant, antibacterial wipes, antiseptic wipes.

Illness reporting

Food handlers have always had a professional and legal responsibility to report illness to their supervisor before attending work. In general food safety terms this included any food poisoning like symptoms and a list of communicable diseases. Coronavirus has increased these measures dramatically, so make sure you also follow the latest government (gov.uk published) advice on COVID-19 symptoms and isolation in addition to your previous illness reporting obligations.

Zoning & workflow

Social distancing at work is likely to require some rethinking of how you produce and serve or distribute food. Zoning and Workflow are food industry terms that refer to the logical planning and sequencing of food production tasks, and allocating dedicated work spaces for certain tasks. The idea is to minimise cross-contamination and time the food spends in the Danger Zone. Given that the rules around social distancing are likely to be in place for some time, it’s important that your layout and plan are reassessed to ensure they are still fit-for-purpose. 

Training & teamwork

Behind every successful food business and every unblemished food safety record is a team effort. Make sure you’ve received up to date training and you’re doing the basics such as coughing or sneezing into the elbow (aka the Dracula), as well as any changes to your role and how it must now be performed during the threat of this pandemic. It’s important that the food industry thinks creatively to find practical solutions to the challenge of Coronavirus, and every Food Handler can and must play their part by working by participating in training, contributing ideas, raising concerns, and working together.

Important Links

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19