Re-opening Your Food Business: Food Safety Guidance
The hospitality industry is finally able to gain a sense of ‘normality’.
The Government has announced that July 4th is the day that the hospitality industry can start re-opening food businesses. Of course, re-opening your food business won’t be as simple as reverting back to what life was like before lockdown. 1 metre social distancing, pre-booking eating/drinking slots as well as zero loitering at the bar will be rules which we will all need to indefinitely follow.
Regardless of the new measures the Government has implemented to keep us safe, food safety standards remain the same.
Below we have outlined the food safety measures you need to keep in mind when re-opening your food business. They must be adhered to ensure your business is a safe place in our ‘new normal’.
GUIDANCE FOR FOOD BUSINESSES ON RE-OPENING AFTER LOCKDOWN
Coronavirus restrictions (or ‘lockdown’) might only just have been lifted for pubs, restaurants and bars, but many catering businesses are being more cautious about reopening, choosing to slowly open back up for business at a later date. Whatever your approach, the UK Government has released extensive guidelines for the hospitality sector to follow to help keep the virus at a low level and prevent transmission.
We thought it might be useful to clarify key parts of the Government’s guidance and provide a reminder of the key things you’ll need to think about to make sure your business is ready to go when you decide to reopen.
Make sure you carry out a COVID-19 specific risk assessment for your business, which identifies the hazards of COVID-19 within your workplace, as well as controls to be put in place to reduce the risk of these hazards. If you employ 5 or more people, the risk assessment should be in writing.
When setting up controls, you should ensure a social distance of 2 metres can be maintained between people. Where a 2-metre distance is not viable, a distance of 1 metre can be followed providing suitable risk mitigation measures are in place – these must be included in your COVID-19 risk assessment.
Examples of risk mitigation measures include (but are not limited to): further increasing hand washing & surface cleaning, using screens/barriers to separate people, working back to back, minimising activity time, etc.
The content and controls of your COVID-19 risk assessment should be communicated with all staff members. If you employ more than 50 people, you should also communicate your control measures to your customers on your website, if you have one.
Once your COVID-19 controls are in place, it is best practice to communicate with both customers and staff that you have properly assessed risks and taken appropriate control measures. You can do this by displaying a poster in a prominent place where it can be seen easily by everyone. Click here to download a free poster you can use for this purpose.
http://www.elas.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/STS-Covid-Compliant-Poster-v2.pdf If you need help completing your COVID-19 risk assessment for your business or would like some reassurance on your COVID-19 controls, get in touch – we can help! CLEANING & DISINFECTION
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 surface 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, card machines, menus, etc).
Where possible, wedge doors open (
fire doors) to reduce hand contact. Opening windows and doors will also help ventilation. You may also need to service or adjust any ventilation systems, so they do not automatically reduce ventilation due to lower than normal occupancy levels. not
If you’ve been closed for a while, you might not have been into the business to complete your Legionella checks and controls so make sure you run all your taps for 5 minutes, flush all your toilets and run water through any shower heads (e.g. in wash-up sinks or staff changing facilities) for 5 minutes too. Ideally, the shower head should be removed, and water run through the hose into the sink. The shower head can then be cleaned separately. However, if you are unable to remove the shower head, wrap it in a towel or put a plastic bag over it and run the water through the shower head into the towel or bag. You can then go on to resume your routine water temperature checks, taking action if temperatures are out of range.
HAND WASHING, PERSONAL HYGIENE & HEALTH SCREENING
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. You should train staff in correct, thorough hand washing and when they need to wash their hands, and make sure staff do not wash their hands in sinks used for equipment or food washing.
Make sure all staff and customer hand wash basins are unobstructed and fully stocked with hot and cold running water, soap and paper towels (or hand dryers). It is also best practice to display handwashing posters in customer toilets, reminding customers to wash their hands frequently and the correct technique to use.
It’s a good idea to provide hand sanitisers (minimum alcohol content +60%) at both staff and customer wash hand basins to use after hand washing and drying is complete. However, it’s important to remember that hand sanitisers should be used
in addition to and not instead of hand washing.
You’ll also need to think about what other 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 (or both)? (see also: Social Distancing).
We recommend you provide hand sanitiser at additional locations, throughout the business, e.g. at entrances and exits, in waiting areas, outside customer toilets, etc.
Remember to provide clear signage for customers of the expected hygiene standards within your business, including use of hand sanitisers – make sure this information is displayed clearly and in multiple locations, if necessary.
Your customers can touch a lot of different things in your food business, all of which will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
You should therefore try to minimise customer handling of these objects and surfaces, e.g. menus, cutlery, condiments, cash etc. You can do this in a number of ways, such as by encouraging customer pre-ordering, providing cutlery and pre-portions/sachets of condiments only when the food is served, append so on. Also, look at how you will manage customer payment to minimise cash handling (e.g. contactless payment only) and adjust the location of card readers if needed. Remember, if you do encourage people to pay by contactless payment, you’ll need to make sure you don’t disadvantage older or vulnerable customers who may prefer to use cash.
Remember, both customers and staff handle menus so you might want to have a system in place for cleaning and disinfecting menus. Alternatively, you could 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.
Staff uniforms can be a source of contamination. Staff should know they should clean their uniforms at 60⁰C or above and stored away from contaminants such as pets. If dirty uniforms cannot be washed immediately, they should be stored in a sealed bag and left for at least 3 days before washing.
If you launder staff uniforms, it is best to provide designated bins for collection of dirty uniforms and ensure they are emptied regularly and segregated from other objects/surfaces.
You’ll need to make sure that you are doing everything you can to make sure your staff are fit to work and are not likely to bring Coronavirus into the workplace.
Make sure all your staff are aware of and understand the current government guidance on what action to take if they have any symptoms associated with Coronavirus.
It’s also prudent to make sure there’s a system in place to screen staff for symptoms of COVID-19 before entering the premises, at the start of their shift each day ensuring records of these checks are maintained.
It is best practice to keep a record of your staff shift patterns, as well as a temporary record of customers and visitors, for 21 days in case this information is needed by NHS Test and Trace.
If any of your staff start to show signs of infection with Coronavirus or have been off sick with the virus, they must not be allowed to work or enter the premises until you are certain it is safe for them to do so. Those experiencing symptoms must use the 111 Coronavirus online service.
www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19/ SOCIAL DISTANCING
Social distancing rules apply to
everyone. As a business operator, you have a duty of care to your staff, customers and anyone else visiting your premises.
You will need to minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals (or 1 metre where 2 metres is not viable and providing risk mitigation measures are in place (see also: Risk Assessment) and calculate the maximum number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines in both your indoor and outdoor spaces, including where customers may need to queue.
You will need to make sure your customers can eat with you safely and that they can maintain social distancing at all times.
This might mean that you reduce the number of covers your business can usually hold so people can’t sit / stand within 2 metres of each other (or 1 metre with risk mitigation measures).
You’ll likely need to organise a queuing system outside the premises, preferably with 2 metre spacing marked out.
Other things to consider might be the addition of floor markings, a one-way system, table spacing and layout, reservation system to stagger arrival times, changing to table service, and so on.
Make sure you consider bottle necks such as doorways, corridors, toilets and so on, and have a system in place for managing social distancing in these areas.
Depending on the size of your business, you might decide that it is most efficient to only take customers via reservation – that way you can control how many are inside your business at any time and can ask them to pre-order. You will then also have records of your customers to share with NHS Test and Trace, if needed.
Clearly communicating your social distancing system to customers is vital, both within the business (e.g. via signs) and before they arrive (e.g. via website or email). This should include information on expected customer behaviour, current Government limits on indoor / outdoor gathering sizes, a reminder that parents are responsible for supervising their children and not to enter business if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Put a system in place to make sure staff can maintain a 2-metre distance from each other in
all areas of the business and at all times. You should consider workable solutions, such as reducing staff numbers wherever possible, restricting the number of staff who interact with each other, rearranging work areas and break times, restricting access to walk-in fridge/freezes, reviewing stock replenishment systems, etc.
Remember, where a 2-metre distance is not viable, additional risk mitigation measures must be in place (e.g. staff working side by side or back to back, limiting the time a task should take a staff member, or considering if the task needs to be done at all, etc).
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.
Make sure all staff are aware of the social distancing system that has been put in place, ensuring they understand how it will work in practice and what mitigation measures they need to follow where a 2-metre social distance is not viable.
Suppliers, Deliveries & Contractors
You’ll need to make sure delivery drivers and contractors maintain social distancing while visiting your premises. It’s also important to screen those delivering into your business or coming on site (e.g. contractors) for symptoms of COVID-19 or if they are living with someone who is self-isolating. A simple visitor’s health questionnaire including questions about COVID-19 symptoms and contact with people who are ill with COVID-19 or self-isolating would do the trick.
Most delivery companies and contractors will likely have systems in place already to maintain 2-metre social distancing (or 1m with risk mitigation measures where 2m not viable) However, you shouldn’t take this for granted and remind those visiting your business of your social distancing & handwashing requirements.
Where possible, reduce the frequency of deliveries, e.g. by ordering larger quantities less often, and schedule contractors to visit when fewer people are on site (e.g. out of trading/opening hours). Contractors should not be brought into your business unnecessarily so should not be used unless the work is essential wherever possible.
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 you’re first collection is booked to take place before you open so waste does not accumulate before you open the doors.
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.
It is important to provide bins for paper towels at all hand wash basins (and at additional locations, as needed). These should be emptied frequently.
You may need to think about providing additional waste bins inside and outside of the premises and think about increasing the frequency of collections if necessary.
It can only take a few days or so for pests to enter a food business and become established. Without your presence in the business every day, pests can ‘get comfy’ and make your food business their 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, used to working with food businesses, 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.
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. 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, for use any foods which are beyond their Use By date. 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.
For foods offered to take away, with customers picking up food from your business, you should make sure, wherever possible, orders are not taken in person on the premises – orders should only be taken online or over the ‘phone. You’ll need to let you customers know this is how they must order food so make sure you put a clear, prominent message on your website and put clear signage up outside the business. This might mean that you have to ask customers arriving without already having placed an order to leave and place their order via ‘phone/online and return at a designated time for collection.
You will need to make sure you minimise the number of people arriving to pick up food at any one time, so you might need to stagger collection times and it’s a good idea to have a queuing system outside with social distance spacing so customers aren’t encouraged to enter the premises until their order is ready. Customers whose orders are ready can then enter one at a time to collect their order and make payment (if needed).
It’s a good idea to take payment over the ‘phone/online at the time the customer orders to avoid unnecessary handling of money or payment equipment. If this is not possible, encourage people to pay by contactless payment wherever possible but you’ll need to make sure you don’t disadvantage older or vulnerable customers who may prefer to use cash.
Get in touch if you’d like a copy of our FREE Takeaway & Delivery Guidance. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Government advice is that additional PPE beyond what you usually wear as part or your work is not beneficial. However, your staff may want to wear PPE at work or you may wish to offer staff personal protective equipment (PPE) for use while at work, e.g. disposable gloves and/or face masks for delivery drivers/riders.
Should you decide to provide PPE to your staff, you
remember that you need to put other controls in place before considering using PPE – PPE is always the last resort and the risks posed by must
COVID-19 need to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams/partnering measures.
Plus, any PPE offered to your staff
be fit for purpose so should meet the appropriate British Standards, be suitable for the task at hand and must be used to replace other personal hygiene measures, such as thorough hand washing, or social distancing measures. must not STAFF TRAINING
You have a great opportunity to get your team’s training up to date, particularly if you have team members who are still furloughed.
STS offer lots of low-cost online training options, some of which are free or discounted at the moment. You can view our range of e-learning and training courses
Before you re-open, make sure all your team are trained in and understand the measures you have put in place to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, e.g. new cleaning regimes and chemicals, use of PPE, queuing/social distancing systems, etc.
CORONAVIRUS & FOOD
Lastly, it is important to remember that Covid-19 (Coronavirus) is a respiratory illness and it’s very unlikely it can be caught from food. At the moment, it isn’t known to be transmitted by exposure to food/food packaging.
Regular and proper hand washing, regular and thorough disinfection of hand touch points combined with social distancing controls are they key defence in the spread of the virus and
be maintained. must 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 also 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 Let’s Connect! Follow Us On Linkedin!