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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, including COVID-19 must be excluded from the workplace.

Advice for donation and delivery

Businesses and retailers that are providing a delivery service should provide employees with information on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, including the encouragement of staff to practice physical distancing and effective  hand hygiene.

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

Employers of a food business must take action to protect their workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while at the workplace. A plan to respond to COVID-19 must be put in place and include infection prevention and control measures, safe system of work, how workers and health and safety representatives will be informed, and any applicable Public Health Directives. The plan must stay up to date as public health information changes.

More information on keeping your workplace safe, clean and healthy during COVID-19 is provided by Work Safe Australia and Work Safe Queensland.

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, or 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.

Cleaning

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.

Disinfectant products (sanitisers) used must contain:

  • alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%,
  • chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1,000 parts per million,
  • oxygen bleach, or
  • wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds.

A list of appropriate disinfectants is published on the TGA website.

Physical distancing

While it is not mandatory, food businesses and retailers should encourage people to observe physical distancing of 1.5 metres to the extent possible.

Tips to help ensure physical distancing include:

  • Ask patrons who have ordered takeaway to wait outside to reduce overcrowding in indoor spaces.
  • 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?

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. They should be directed to undergo COVID-19 testing, unless they have recently recovered from COVID-19 within the last 28 days. Positive COVID-19 cases should isolate in accordance with the public health direction.

There are 7 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 if you are sick.
  5. Practice physical distancing, which includes staying 1.5m away from others as much as you can.
  6. Consider using a face mask when indoors or where socially distancing is not possible.
  7. Get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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 they 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?

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 or has been a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, information on the current requirements is available from the Queensland Government website.

Resources

Workplace health and safety resources, posters, and fact sheets have been developed to help you stay informed and manage your business during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

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.

Last updated: 3 March 2022