Food businesses and Coronavirus

Last updated: 14 May 2020

The Government has published extensive guidance on the GOV.UK website on Coronavirus for food businesses which you should read in conjunction with the food related frequently asked questions (FAQs) below.

Working safely during Coronavirus

The Government has also published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the Coronavirus pandemic, which can be found on the gov.uk website. There is specific guidance for operating food related businesses safely including advice on social distancing and cleaning.

How to keep your food business safe during COVID-19 lockdown

  • Make regular visits to the premises to check for pests
  • Make sure you check both inside and outside the premises:
    • Structure of the building
    • Removing refuse from inside and outside of the product
    • Equipment (gas supply, wiring, beer optics, fridge/freezer temperatures)
    • Food storage (discarding perishables and checking dry goods and best before dates)
    • Leave your insectocutors on
  • Undertake pest proofing/maintenance while closed
  • Check water supplies and flush through the system to prevent stagnant pooling (in taps, pipes, drains and dishwashers)
  • Ensure you keep on top of cleaning, you may have missed something during closedown.
  • Check the batteries in your fire and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Take this time to review your food safety management system, allergy information and undertake training courses.

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

See the government guidance on hygiene and food safety requirements for food businesses to reopen and operate safely during COVID-19.

Delivering food

Which food businesses can stay open?

Currently only businesses selling essential supplies. More information is available on the government website.

Is there any guidance on how to deliver food safely?

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has issued the following guidance for delivering food and takeaways.

Can I start delivering food if I've not done it before?

Food deliveries are likely to become more common. There are a number of considerations you need to be aware of:

  • You must already be registered as a food business with your local authority to enable you to provide a delivery service.
  • If food delivery is a new activity for you, contact your local authorities Environmental Health Team to notify them of changes to your practices (see further information below).
  • You must ensure all food delivered does not become unsafe or unfit to eat. You should review your food safety management systems to ensure you have identified critical safety controls involved in delivering the food.
  • Food that needs to be refrigerated or kept cool must be kept below 8 degrees C by use of an insulated box with a coolant gel or in a cool bag.
  • Hot food should be kept above 63 degrees C.
  • You should monitor all your controls, you can use the Safer Food Better Business diary sheets to help. If you wish to use the chilled food and hot food temperature exemption you must show how you are monitoring to ensure you are keeping within the time constraints.
  • We recommend that you keep your delivery distances and time short, limited to within 30 minutes.
  • The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have provided useful advice for businesses called ‘How to manage a food business if you sell products online, for takeaway or for delivery.’
  • Allergens – There is a wealth of advice for businesses on allergen management on the FSA website.
  • Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services must not include alcoholic beverages if they do not have a licence to permit alcoholic sales off the premises.

Contact-free delivery

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 should think through the hazards and ensure that you have control measures in place.

  • Limiting contact when delivering orders will help keep everyone healthy, so you could consider leaving deliveries at the door of your customer, rather than handing it over to them. Knock on the door, step back the safe recommended distance and wait nearby for your customer to collect it. 
  • Take payments over the phone or internet rather than taking a cash payment.

Infection Control

  • You have responsibilities to ensure food handlers are fit for work under the food hygiene regulations and in addition 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

If I supply food how does it need to be labelled?

Where food is prepacked then the labelling is good for selling in store or online. It will contain all of the legal information so you will not have to do anything more.

Where food is normally sold loose then more labelling information is required. The highest priority is that the allergens in the food are clearly labelled.

Further details on food allergens and intolerance can be found on Business Companion.

My business is not registered for takeaway or food delivery- can I start selling in this way?

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 must tell the Environmental Health Team by emailing env.health@scambs.gov.uk when the new use begins and ends.

What do I do if I want to provide food to the community?

Contact our Food Team at env.health@scambs.gov.uk for advice.

What can I do as a mobile or function caterer?

Visit the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) website for useful points to consider.

I want to set up a mobile catering unit, what do I do?

Contact our Food Team at env.health@scambs.gov.uk and our Licensing Team on licensing@scambs.gov.uk for advice on street trade licensing.

What if I can't get the right cleaning products?

Food businesses are required to clean their premises, equipment and maintain personal hygiene at all times to safeguard against cross-contamination. If you are unable to do this because of insufficient cleaning materials then you should not be handling, preparing and selling food. You must stop producing food until you can sufficiently clean. 

Making food

My products have claims about the ingredients (for example, Madagascan vanilla). What happens if I can't get the normal supply? Will I have to change all my packaging to remove the claim?

Whilst false or misleading claims should not be made we accept in the current circumstances that there will be disruption to the normal supply chains. Provided there is no risk to food safety (introducing another allergen for example) you should take reasonable steps to ensure your customers are not misled. This may be changing information on a website, having a note in store or accompanying any delivery or even over-sticking product packaging to remove a false claim. We would not want to see a business throw away hundreds of pounds with of packaging due to a short-term change in supplier. If you take reasonable steps to advise customers of any changes then you would have a defence.

If any change to your ingredient creates a safety risk then you should not supply it with incorrect information.

Are there any free online COVID-19 training for food manufacturers?

To help in efforts to contain the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, Intertek Alchemy has created a new training course "COVID-19: Overview" to ensure food manufacturing workers know how to:

  • mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus 
  • recognise symptoms and protect ourselves from respiratory illnesses 
  • prevent transmission to others

Access the Intertek Alchemy COVID-19: Overview training course online

Please note this is an external non-governmental website so we cannot guarantee its contents.

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