This guidance is to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely when providing takeaway and food delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guidance from the Food Standards Agency focuses on the hygiene processes and requirements you must follow to safely operate your food business.
This guidance should be read in conjunction with Working safely during COVID-19 and wider government advice on COVID-19. This will give you a practical framework to identify what you need to do to continue, adapt, or restart operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Risk assessment and review
In line with wider government advice, you should make sure that the risk assessment for your business addresses the risks of COVID-19. You should use the government social distancing guidance to inform your decisions and control measures. If you have fewer than five employees, you do not have to write anything down. You should consider how this impacts on existing food safety management systems.
Food businesses which are restarting, or have made changes should review and, where necessary, update their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures or HACCP-based Food Safety Management System (such as Safer food, better business (SFBB) packs or Safe Catering in Northern Ireland). You should check that you have not introduced any additional hazards which you are not controlling.
- document any changes you make
- document the start-up checks you undertake
- inform your local food authority if you are restarting your food business, and of any changes to your registerable activities. This includes the introduction of a new delivery or takeaway service.
If you are restarting operations, you should review your usual start-up procedures following any shut-down and consider whether any additional procedures are needed. This should take into account the length of time your business has not been in operation. This review should consider the cleaning requirements for your business, and an assessment of any pest control needs following the period of inaction. SFBB provides a checklist for opening and closing checks and advice on extra checks which should be undertaken.
Staff should be fit for work at all times. This means they must not be suffering from, or carrying, an illness or disease that could cause a problem with food safety. During COVID-19, staff who are displaying symptoms of the disease should follow the government’s Stay at home and Staying safe outside your home guidance. Public Health England have published guidance showing the return to work process for a symptomatic worker once they have been tested for COVID-19.
You must make sure that staff understand your Fitness to Work policy and are aware of any updates that have been made in relation to COVID-19. You may wish to consider any appropriate changes to your visitor questionnaires to address COVID-19 exposure risks.
It is very unlikely that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging. However, 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.
If you are a restaurant or food business providing food by delivery or takeaway, you must make sure your business is compliant with allergen and hygiene requirements for distance selling.
If food is sold online or by phone through distance selling, allergen information must be provided at two stages in the order process.
You must provide allergen information:
- before the purchase of the food is completed - this can be in writing (on a website, catalogue or menu) or orally (by phone)
- when the food is delivered - this can be in writing (allergen stickers on food or an enclosed copy of a menu) or orally (by delivery driver).
If vehicles or containers have been used for transporting anything other than food, effective cleaning is required between loads to avoid the risk of contamination.
HACCP plans or HACCP-based Food Safety Management Systems need to be updated to include details of transported food.
We have more information on allergen and hygiene requirements in Food safety for food delivery. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health have published further guidance on food delivery and takeaway during COVID-19.
Reusable customer containers
You should review your food safety practices for accepting your customers’ reusable equipment. This can include reusable cups or containers. It is the business’s decision as to whether you can continue to accommodate this. If so, you will need a procedure to minimise contact between staff and customer equipment. This should reduce the potential risk to your staff, equipment and premises from surface contamination. You can do this by:
- making sure staff do not touch the customer’s equipment. You can ask customers to leave their cups on the counter and then pour the drink into the cup from your own container.
- asking staff to wash the container and their hands in hot soapy water. It should be dried before using with your equipment.
If you are unable to accommodate reusable customer containers, you should explain to customers that you are unable to use their equipment at this time.
When you have decided on the best option for your business, you should record this in your food safety management system and your COVID-19 risk assessment. Staff should be trained in any change to procedure.
Thorough cleaning of premises and equipment
You should carry out a thorough clean of your food premises and equipment before re-starting operations. You should consider appropriate methods to verify the effectiveness of your cleaning, and whether a professional deep clean is needed. We provide guidance on cleaning effectively in your business.
You should ensure that all glasses, dishes and cutlery used by customers are cleaned sufficiently. This is to reduce the risk of contamination with coronavirus as well as other pathogens. You should clean them either by using a suitable detergent in a dishwasher rated for disinfection, or washing by hand in hot soapy water using bactericidal detergent.
Cleaning and disinfection
To comply with the general rules for food hygiene, you are required to have in place your own cleaning, disinfection and hygiene procedures as part of your Food Safety Management System (FSMS). This is essential to produce safe food and should reduce the risk of cross-contamination. This includes avoiding tainting and preventing microorganisms from spreading to food.
You should follow guidance on good hygiene practices in food preparation. This should include ensuring that objects and surfaces that are touched regularly are frequently cleaned and disinfected using your regular cleaning products.
Any chemicals used in food establishments to clean and disinfect food contact surfaces and equipment must be approved as food safe. You are advised to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparation and for use, paying particular attention to contact times.
The Safer food, better business (SFBB) for Caterers pack (Safe Catering guide for Northern Ireland), advises food businesses to use disinfectants and sanitisers that meet BS EN standards. Because new products come onto the market and others are discontinued or change formulation, we do not hold a list of products that comply with BS EN standards.
A directory of disinfectants is available for reference, but you should always check the label, and where necessary check with the manufacturer to ensure suitability.
Cleaning if regular products are unavailable
You should seek approved, food-safe alternatives with equivalent and effective properties if your regular cleaning and disinfecting products are not available.
Both alcohol-based sanitisers/surface disinfectants (in concentrations of 70-80%) and common disinfectants based on ammonium compounds or chlorine (bleach), can be effective. They can be applied either as a combined detergent-disinfectant solution or when adopting a two-stage approach as a disinfectant following cleaning with a detergent, in either case, food contact surfaces should be washed down with water to prevent chemical contamination of food.
You must ensure:
- the manufacturer’s instructions on use are followed, including using appropriate dilution rates and contact times.
- the health and safety of staff is considered. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance on the use of chemicals in the workplace.
- the suitability of the chemicals for the surfaces to be cleaned and disinfected.
Further advice should be sought from a food safety consultant if required.
If alternative disinfectant products are not available, food businesses may wish to consider using heat as a Critical Control Point. Kitchen items such as knives and utensils can be put into a dishwasher, rated for disinfection, or submerged into boiling water. Surfaces can also be steam cleaned.
Food businesses should ensure that any ingredients or raw materials that have passed their use-by date are disposed of appropriately. You should also inspect stocks for damage and/or signs of pest-infestation and check temperature control records if available. You should not use ingredients or raw materials where the integrity of packaging is not intact or where you are not content that adequate temperature control has been maintained.
Availability of raw materials and ingredients
You should check that you can obtain your usual raw materials and ingredients so that your product specifications can be met. Ensure any new suppliers or contractors meet your requirements. Safer food, better business guidance is available on the selection of suppliers and contractors.
Availability of consumables
You should check that you have adequate stocks of suitable cleaning chemicals and that they are in-date. This also applies to other essential consumable items such as disposable gloves.
You should check labelling is still available for allergens and that matrices are up to date. If your suppliers or ingredients have changed, you will need to review your processes. See our Allergen guidance for food businesses for more information.
If due to business closure, you decided to freeze products you would normally store, you should check labelling. You should ensure that you are able to use the food safely, taking into account product durability once defrosted and allergen management.
By law, food business operators must ensure that food handlers receive the appropriate supervision and training in food hygiene. This should be in line with the area they work in and will enable them to handle food in the safest way. In the UK, food handlers don't have to hold a food hygiene certificate to prepare or sell food.
The skills taught in official training programmes can also be learned by:
- training on the job
- relevant prior experience.
You should reconsider training needs for your staff, including any changes such as those made to procedures, recipes and other hygiene measures. We provide online training resources and Safer food, better business packs that can be used as a training aide.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the food industry can be for the protection of workers, and where appropriate to prevent the contamination of food during production. The current situation should not change these requirements.
You should continue to ensure that the use of PPE is as set out in your Food Safety Management System (FSMS), and in line with your current Health & Safety at Work policies. You should:
- stress the importance of more frequent handwashing and maintaining good hygiene practices in food preparation and handling areas. Employees should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- ensure that objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, are frequently cleaned, and disinfected using your regular cleaning products.
The Food Safety and Hygiene legislation requires that you provide safe food and have appropriate hygiene procedures in place. Some businesses may implement a glove-use policy but the wearing of gloves by personnel handling food is not a legal requirement.
The best way in which food handlers can maintain good personal hygiene is by frequently washing their hands. Gloves can be used as an aide to good food hygiene practice but should not be considered a substitute for a thorough regime of effective hand washing. The COVID-19 virus (and other viruses as well as bacteria) can contaminate disposable gloves in the same way it gets onto workers’ hands.
If gloves are used, they should be changed as often as you would wash hands and you must wash your hands when changing or removing gloves. Gloves must be changed after carrying out non-food related activities, such as opening and closing doors by hand, handling money and emptying bins. Food workers should avoid touching their mouth and eyes when wearing gloves.
There may be situations where you provide face masks to protect high-risk foods or where workers are exposed to airborne risks. If so you should continue to follow your current policies on the use of face masks.
Follow your established procedures for use of PPE in the working environment. You should also take into account social distancing guidance.
The government has published guidance for businesses on wearing face coverings.
Inappropriate use and handling of face coverings could present a risk to food safety and hygiene as well as to the health and safety of staff.
Where your staff choose to wear face coverings to travel to work you should put procedures in place for hygienic handling and storage or disposal of those face coverings.
Where possible, you should also consider adapting your workwear policy and food safety procedures to support your staff who would like the option of wearing a face covering in the workplace to do so safely.
While employers are asked to support their staff who choose to wear face coverings there may be situations in a food environment where this it is not appropriate for food safety and hygiene reasons. If, after carrying out a risk assessment, you decide that it would not be appropriate for your staff to wear a face covering in the workplace, and that alternative measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission are required, you should clearly explain the reasons for your decision to your employees.
It will not always be possible to keep a distance of 2 metres. In these circumstances both employers and employees must do everything they reasonably can to reduce risk.
Working safely during COVID-19 in shops and branches contains more guidance on how to implement social distancing at work and steps you can take to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Social distancing guidance for food delivery drivers can be found in Working safely during COVID-19 in vehicles.
Food hygiene ratings
You will receive a new rating when the next planned inspection is carried out by your local authority. You can request a re-visit to get a new rating when all the necessary hygiene improvements identified at the most recent inspection have been made. Details of how to request a re-inspection are available.
However, there are likely to be delays in local authorities being able to undertake planned inspections and requested re-inspections during COVID-19.