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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.

The COVID-19 novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus affecting humans. Some coronaviruses can cause illness similar to the common flu and others can cause more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). This novel coronavirus is still new and as such we are still learning more about it.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include the below. If you are experiencing any symptoms, contact a doctor immediately.

  • fever
  • a cough
  • sore throat
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath

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 practise 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 procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the encouragement of staff to comply with social distancing and good hand hygiene practises.

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.

Handwashing and hand sanitising

The most important measure to protect food is proper handwashing. 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.

Surfaces

Sanitising and cleaning common contact surfaces after the customer has left, or at least every 20 minutes for frequently touched items, is important in reducing the spread of the virus.

To help control COVID-19, it is recommended that food retailers provide customers access to free sanitiser to clean their hands and trolley while shopping.

Social distancing

Tips to help ensure social distancing include:

  • restrict entry to the number of people within the supermarket to allow for one person for every 4 square meters.
  • provide markings on the floor behind the checkout at 1.5m intervals to show customers where to stand.
  • place signage at the beginning of the checkout area to alert customers to stay behind the conveyor or floor marking and not to load grocery items until the customer being served at the checkout has left the area.
  • when necessary, close every second self-service packing/paying station to ensure 1.5m between customers at adjacent stations.
  • ensure sick employees do not attend the workplace and request sick customers to leave
  • don’t accept cash, only use tap-and-go credit payments
  • provide security to support staff to ensure customers maintain social distancing requirements

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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

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. Practise social distancing, which includes staying 1.5m away from others as much as you can.

Additional measures

  • 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 customer entry and exit points and interaction to optimise social distancing and restrict the maximum number of customers allowed into a business.
  • Place signs that explain that customers should wait in line and maintain at least 1.5 metres separation distance between each other.
  • Review staff roles and points of contact. Restrict face-to-face meetings as much as possible, keep them short and practise social distancing.
  • Additional handwashing and sanitising points could be set up throughout the business.
  • 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.

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.

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 social distancing and other COVID-19 related information.

Last updated: 29 June 2020