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Food retailers and COVID-19

This fact sheet provides guidance for food businesses and retailers on coronavirus (COVID-19) requirements, reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and concepts for reducing business impacts.

Key points

Food safety aspects of COVID-19

COVID-19 is not a foodborne disease, but extra care with personal hygiene may reduce the risks of transmission. It is spread by person-to-person transmission (coughing, sneezing and close contact with an infected person) and via surfaces contaminated with the virus.

The Food Standards Code requires good hygiene practises by food businesses during food handling and preparation. These are important to prevent food borne illness and to help prevent transmission of COVID-19. At a minimum, businesses must adhere to existing requirements of food laws, specifically:

  • Maintain and practice frequent hand washing when preparing foods, after going to the bathroom, and after touching the face or hair
  • Maintain thorough cleaning and sanitising of facilities, equipment, and transport vehicles (including food contact surfaces and equipment, but also door handles, light switches, floors, walls, and other areas)
  • Maintain strict requirements around worker health and hygiene. Any worker with a suspected communicable disease, such as coughing, sneezing, flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal illness, must be excluded from the workplace.

Advice for donation and delivery

As most food businesses and retailers are currently providing a delivery service, employers should provide information on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, including the encouragement of staff to comply with physical distancing and good hand hygiene practices.

All staff, including volunteers and delivery drivers must be directed to stay home if they are sick, and to go home immediately if they become unwell.

Advice for food retailers

The following suggestions are control measures that can be implemented by food businesses, retailers and supermarkets to reduce the impact of COVID-19.

Hand hygiene

Proper handwashing is an important measure to protect food. Staff who handle food must have access to handwashing facilities and they must wash and dry their hands:

  • before handling food
  • between handling raw food and food that is ready to eat, such as pre-cooked food and salads
  • after smoking, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, eating or drinking, using the toilet
  • after touching hair, scalp, mouth, nose or ear canal and
  • after handling rubbish and other waste.

To help control COVID-19, it is recommended that food retailers provide customers access to free sanitiser to clean their hands. Sanitisers should contain at least 60% ethanol or 70% iso-propanol.


Frequent cleaning and sanitising of commonly touched surfaces such as laminated menus, door handles, handrails, counter tops, and EFTPOS equipment is important in reducing the spread of the virus.

Clean frequently touched areas and surfaces at least hourly with detergent or disinfectant. Surfaces used by customers, such as tables and bar counters, must also be cleaned between customers.

Physical distancing

Tips to help ensure social distancing include:

  • restrict entry to the number of people within the premises to allow no more than -
    • Indoors
      • one person per 2 square metres (up to a total of 50 people) for spaces less than 200 square metres, or
      • one person per 4 square metres for spaces greater than 200 square metres.
    • Outdoors
      • one person per 2 square metres
  • provide markings on the floor behind payment station at 1.5m intervals to show customers where to stand.
  • when necessary, close every second self-service packing/payment station to ensure 1.5m between customers at adjacent stations.
  • where necessary, provide security to support staff to ensure customers maintain physical distancing requirements.

What measures can I take to protect my workforce and customers?

If symptoms are being experienced, contact a doctor immediately. Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever (a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees),
  • a cough,
  • sore throat,
  • runny nose,
  • fatigue,
  • shortness of breath,
  • loss of taste and
  • loss of smell

If a customer or worker shows signs of COVID-19 symptoms, request them to leave the premises.

There are 5 ways we can all help stop the spread of viruses

  1. Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs.
  2. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  3. Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth, and avoid shaking hands.
  4. Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are sick.
  5. Practice physical distancing, which includes staying 1.5m away from others as much as you can.

Additional measures for staff

  • Divide staff into teams working in separate areas.
  • Increase time between shifts or service periods to minimise staff interaction.
  • Limit the number of people in contact on a production floor or kitchen.
  • Review staff roles and points of contact. Restrict face-to-face meetings as much as possible, keep them short and practice physical distancing.
  • Staff checks should be done daily to review the health status of workers.
  • Increase cleaning of common hard surfaces and touch points such as door handles, handrails, light switches, pin pads and touch screens.
  • Increase ventilation where practicable.

Additional measures for customers

  • Review customer entry and exit points and interaction to optimise physical distancing.
  • Restrict the maximum number of customers allowed into a business.
  • Arrange waiting areas, tables and chairs to allow customers to remain physically distanced
  • Place signs that explain that customers should wait in line and maintain at least 1.5 metres separation distance between each other.
  • Provide contactless ordering and payment options.
  • Set up additional sanitising points throughout the business.

Regularly monitor and review measures and practices to ensure are consistent with current directions and advice provided by health authorities.

What happens if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 or has been a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case?

Close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case must self-quarantine for 14 days from the last contact with the infected person. Queensland Health Public Health Units investigate cases and will identify potential close contacts of a case and who will need to self-quarantine.

Businesses and staff may need support. Further information and support services may be found here. Go to frequently asked questions for further information.

Further information

Further information about COVID-19 for food businesses is found on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website and the Queensland Government website. The Queensland Health website provides further information on physical distancing and other COVID-19 related information, and information for industry on the sale of food (PDF 95 kB) and retail sale of fresh produce (PDF 69 kB).

Last updated: 20 October 2020