Restarting a food business after a temporary shutdown

A quick internet search will reveal a whole raft of information and advice regarding food business operations during and after the pandemic. This checklist, written by the brilliant team at the Institute of Food Science and Technology, is the most comprehensive and easy to follow list we’ve found.

Restart checklist

Important Links

The IFST Knowledge Hub contains a lot of great resources to consolidate advice, practical guidance and links to resources to support individuals, smaller food businesses and larger food operations

IFST Covid-19 Knowledge Hub

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

Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) linked to food?

COVID-19 is NOT generally associated with food, nor does it produce food poisoning like symptoms. We have however included it in our online food safety courses for two important reasons. Firstly, most practical measures used to destroy existing food poisoning viruses on surfaces can also be applied to tackling COVID-19. And secondly, Coronavirus will have a lasting effect on how we all work, socialise and consume food, so it’s important as an industry that we understand the threat and adapt the way we work to reduce the threats to ourselves, our customers, and the future of the sector.

Government & FSA guidance is currently the best way forward for you to understand how this new virus and your business can operate safely together.


Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

How does coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?

Like many pathogenic viruses, Coronavirus spreads person-to-person through airborne particles produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and when contaminated hands touch and thus contaminate other objects. Research suggests that Coronavirus can survive for up to several days on some of the most common materials and surfaces used in food premises:

  • Coronavirus can survive airborne for up to a few hours
  • Coronavirus can survive on cardboard packaging for around 24 hours
  • Coronavirus can survive on plastic packaging for up to 3 days
  • Coronavirus can survive on stainless steel for up to 7 days

Let’s get your local community backing your food business

Now that many of you are finding ways of getting fresh cooked food to your customers and local community safely, it’s time to encourage them to your support you. Put up the poster below in your premises window and share it online as widely as you can to get the word out that our sector needs everyone to get behind it and support all food businesses to help them get through this very difficult time.

Share with other food business owners, friends and through any route you can think of to build the momentum needed for the general public to get all food business back on their feet.

We rely on you for our business so we will work as hard as we can to support your food business. If you need answers to anything or have an idea that could help your food business and others get in touch and we will do all we can to help.

Missing your local food business? They’re missing you too!

Now that pubs, cafes and takeaways are finding ways of getting fresh cooked food to you safely, it’s time to show your support. Behind the scenes, a lot of these guys have been working hard to incorporate social distancing and safe payment methods, as well as perfecting their food hygiene practices. And now they need YOU – show some love to your local chippie, your independent Indian restaurant or your dedicated pizza delivery place and treat yourself to a takeaway tonight.

Don’t forget that your local pubs, restaurants and cafes are all now working toward or are now providing a takeaway service, they need your help now more than ever to keep them going.