During these very difficult times of COVID-19, safety within any industry is vitally important, especially food handling. In this week’s blog, we will be giving you some food safety tips to help you deliver safely during the pandemic.
According to the government guidance, after restarting during these times as a food business, you must update your Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures.
- 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 registrable activities. This includes the introduction of a new delivery or takeaway service.
Upon returning to work, you must also undertake a COVID-19 specific risk assessment to ensure your business has assessed and can control any COVID-19 risks apparent.
All staff should be fit to work and should understand your fitness to work policy. If any members of staff are showing symptoms of COVID-19, you should immediately follow the current government guidance.
Food Safety Tips
- Your business must be compliant with allergen and hygiene requirements for distancing selling if you are providing food by delivery or takeaway.
- For online/phone purchases, allergen information must be provided before the purchase is completed e.g. in writing or verbally. It can alternatively be provided when the food is delivered.
- Vehicles/containers must be cleaned between loads to avoid contamination if they are being used for transporting anything other than food.
- HACCP-based Food Safety Management Systems need to be updated to include details of transported food.
- Read full guidance on food delivery and takeaway during COVID-19.
Reusable Customer Containers
- If as a business, you accept customers reusable equipment such as reusable cups or containers, a procedure will need to be in place to minimise contact between staff and customer equipment.
- For example, this can be done by making sure staff do not touch the customers equipment and the customer leaves their cups on the counter and pour the drink themselves. Alternatively, you can ask staff to wash the container and their hands in hot soapy water, drying it before use.
Thorough Cleaning Of The Premises and Equipment
- A thorough clean should be undertaken of your food premises and equipment before restarting operations. Consider using appropriate methods to ensure the effectiveness of the cleaning and to identify if a professional deep clean is required.
- Wash any used customer equipment e.g. dished and cutlery, to avoid contamination. This should be done using a sufficient dishwashing detergent.
Cleaning and Disinfection
- You are required to have in place your own cleaning, disinfection, and hygiene measures as part of your Food Safety Management System (FSMS), to comply with general rules for food hygiene. This is essential for safe food, avoiding cross-contamination.
- Ensure objects and surfaces that are regularly touched, are frequently cleaned with disinfectant products. Any chemicals used to disinfect food contact surfaces and equipment, must be approved as food safe. It is advised you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparation and use.
- 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.
When cleaning, 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.
If alternative disinfectant products are not available, the food business may wish to consider using heat as a critical control point, such as using a dishwasher, or submerging equipment into boiling water.
- Ensure any ingredients/raw materials that have passed their use by date, are disposed appropriately.
- Inspect stock for damages, pest infection, and check temperature control records (if available).
Do not use ingredients or raw materials where the packaging is not intact, or you are not content that adequate temperature has been controlled.
- Ensure new suppliers or contractors meet your requirements.
- Check regularly to ensure you have adequate stocks of suitable in date cleaning chemicals, and other essential items such as disposable gloves.
- Ensure labelling is still available for allergens and that metrics are up to date.
- If you decided to freeze your products due to business closure, you should check the label to ensure you are able to use it again safely.
All food business operators must ensure food handlers receive appropriate food hygiene training and supervision. You should reconsider training needs for your staff including changes made to procedures, recipes, and other hygiene measures.
Personal Protective Equipment: PPE for COVID 19
- PPE can be for the protection of workers and to prevent contamination of food.
- Continue to ensure the PPE set out in your Food Safety Management System (FSMS) and your H&S at work policies are still being used.
- Stress to your employees the importance of frequent hand-washing 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 public areas, blowing their nose, sneezing, or coughing.
- Employees should also ensure objects and surfaces that are frequently touched are frequently cleaned using disinfectant.
- A glove-use policy may be implemented but the wearing of gloves by people handling food is not a legal requirement.
- Gloves can still be contaminated by the virus, in the same way that workers’ hands can become contaminated.
- Therefore, gloves should be used as an additional protective measure, not as a substitute for workers washing their hands. If gloves are used, they should be changed as frequently as a worker would wash their hands, and hands should be washed when changing or removing gloves. Workers should avoid touching their face when wearing gloves and they must be changed after carrying out non food related activities such as opening doors or touching money.
- Face masks may be needed in situations where you need to protect high risk foods, or where workers may be exposed to airborne risks. A policy should be in place for the use of face masks. Social distancing guidance should still be considered.
- Appropriate procedures should be in place to handle, store and dispose of face coverings that staff choose to wear to travel to work.
- An adaption of the businesses work wear policy should be considered, to help staff who like the option of wearing face coverings to work, to do so safely.
- Employers should support their staff who choose to wear face coverings. However, during a risk assessment being undertaken, it may identify that a face covering in a food environment is not appropriate for food and safety reasons. Alternative measures to mitigate risk of COVID-19 transmission must be put in place and the reasons for not allowing face covering should be clearly explained to your employees.
- The government has published guidance for businesses on wearing face coverings.
- In cases where it is not possible to keep a distance of 2 meters, both employers and employees must do everything they can to reasonably reduce risk.
- For further guidance on social distancing in shops and branches: Working safely during COVID-19 in shops and branches.
- For further guidance on social distancing for delivery drivers: Working safely during COVID-19 in vehicles.
For Further Information on Food Safety During COVID 19
We hope that this round-up style article provided value and will help you with ensuring food safety guidelines are followed correctly. If you have any more questions, then please don’t hesitate to contact our health and safety consultants via our online contact form or live chat.
An experienced member of Wurkplace’s Health and Safety department who helps SME’s grow and keep within current legislation requirements.
Tyler holds a CIM Level 3 in Marketing, and has most recently attained a NEBOSH General certificate (Health and Safety).