Preparing to Re-open Your Food Business: Food Safety Guidance
Coronavirus restrictions (or ‘lockdown’) might still be in place for the hospitality industry at the moment but it’s important to make sure your food business is ready to re-open safely once restrictions are lifted. The government has suggested that some food businesses / hospitality businesses may be able to open in July (subject to change if needed).
We agree with you; 2 months is ages away! However, re-opening your food business will involve a bit of forward-planning as food businesses are unlikely to be able to operate as freely as before the pandemic started.
We thought it might be useful to provide a reminder of the key food safety things you’ll need to do to make sure your business is ready to go when the time comes. Every week we will be updating this guide with additional information, outlining the key steps that you need to take and consider in order to re-open your food business safely and smoothly.
Let’s start with pest control.
It can only take a few days or so for pests to enter a food business and become established. If your food business has temporarily closed with limited, or zero, human occupancy, it’s more than likely pests have found your establishment a comfy and safe home!
If you use a pest control contractor, make sure they come in to assess pest activity before you re-open for business. If you don’t routinely use a pest control contractor, it might be useful to employ a reputable one who is used to working with food businesses just to make sure there are no pest problems before you re-open.
If you normally make checks for pests yourself, make sure the checks you make before re-opening are really thorough. The responsibility will fall on your shoulders should your food business happen to suffer a pest infestation whilst re-opening.
Regardless of your approach, you will need to make sure pest activity is assessed with sufficient time to take appropriate action to eradicate any pests before re-opening.
Frozen Foods & Dry Goods
You may have frozen some, or even all, of your high risk food stocks to reduce waste at the start of lockdown; especially as we didn’t know how long the lockdown would last. If this is the case, you may have foods in stock which have passed their Use By date. By law, you cannot use, or keep on the premises any foods which are beyond their Use By date.
Therefore, any high risk foods with a Use By date applied will need to be disposed of.
Foods with a Best Before Date (usually lower risk frozen foods and dry goods) can be safely used but the quality of the food may have deteriorated. It’s a good idea to try some of these foods before serving to your customers. If it isn’t a high enough standard for yourself then it certainly isn’t for your customers!
You’ll need to make sure you contact your waste disposal contractor before opening to make sure your waste collections resume at an appropriate frequency once you are re-open. As you will need to sort through any frozen or dry foods, and you may need to undertake some improvement work to your premises, you’re likely to have a little more waste than usual, so make sure your first collection is booked to take place before you open so waste does not accumulate before you open the doors. Again, any waste is a haven for pests so make sure your food business and its surroundings are free of unnecessary waste.
Remember that waste disposal contractors need to be licensed to work as a Waste Carrier by the Environment Agency so whoever you use, make sure you check they are authorised to collect and dispose of both food and general waste.
You will need to undertake a thorough clean of your business to make sure it is suitably clean for re-opening. This is a good opportunity to complete a really good, deep clean in all areas to get you re-started on the right foot.
Make sure you have appropriate disinfectant products in place. This will be more important than ever in order to prevent the spread and further outbreaks of Coronavirus. Your sanitisers and disinfectants must be suitable for use in food preparation areas and must be effective against ‘enveloped viruses’. Sanitisers and disinfectants which meet BS EN 1276 are effective against harmful bacteria associated with foodborne illness and other enveloped viruses so should be suitable for use against Coronavirus – if unsure, please contact the supplier or manufacturer of your chemicals.
As always, your sanitisers and disinfectants need to be diluted correctly, applied thoroughly and left on surfaces for the correct amount of time after application (known as the ‘contact time’) in order to be effective. You will need to make sure your staff are trained in their correct use.
Once open, you’ll need to make sure hand touch points are cleaned and disinfected regularly throughout the day (e.g. tables, chairs, doors, handles, etc).
You’ll also need to make sure all your staff, regardless which area of the business they work in, wash their hands regularly and thoroughly. It should take
at least 20 seconds to wash hands properly with soap and hot water.
Hands must be dried thoroughly too as damp hands provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Damp/wet hands can also reduce the effectiveness of hand sanitisers.
The use of hand sanitisers is recommended but
in addition to and not instead of hand washing. Hand sanitisers should have a 70% or greater alcohol content or meet BS EN 14476.
You may wish to offer staff personal protective equipment (PPE) for use while at work, e.g. disposable gloves and/or face masks. Any PPE offered to your staff must be fit for purpose so should meet the appropriate British Standards and should not be used to replace other personal hygiene measures, such as thorough hand washing.
If providing masks, these need to be properly face-fitted and the mask must not be touched with unclean hands or during/after use.
You will also need to think about what procedures you are going to have in place for your customers to reduce risk of transmission. For example, will you provide hand sanitiser for all your customers to use upon entering your business or will you provide mobile hand washing stations?
Adapting your menus
Remember, both customers and staff handle menus so you might want to use a blackboard (that can either be moved around by staff or is big enough / positioned so it’s visible to everyone) or get customers to order online so menus don’t have to be handled at all.
A simplified/reduced menu to what you usually offer might be required to enable social distancing in kitchens and allow time to properly wash hands and clean and disinfect touch points. The bigger or more complex your menu is, the more staff you will need in your kitchen to prepare peoples’ meals and the more likely it is that you won’t be able to maintain social distancing or that hand washing and/or cleaning and disinfection falls by the wayside.
Also, if you are going to hand out menus to customers, how are you going to clean and disinfect them after each use? Make sure you have a procedure/system in place and that it is effective.
In the mean time, if you need any help or advice regarding re-opening your food business we’re here to help. Your query may not be related to food safety either and that’s ok! We have a team of employment law, health & safety and occupational health professionals who are able to provide you with the necessary guidance and support during this difficult time. For more information complete the form to the right or get in touch on 08450 50 40 60.