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Guidelines for food businesses

From noon on 15 May 2020, restaurants, cafes and bars (a food business) will be able to reopen for the service and consumption of food and beverages at the food business.

However, the Chief Health Officer (the CHO) has placed further requirements on the reopening of food businesses.

These restrictions are specified in CHO Directions No 30 – Directions to Close Certain Business, Places, Activities and Services and Directions for Safety Measures at Reopened Businesses, Places, Activities and Services (the Directions).

CHO Directions and mandatory requirements

In the ordinary course of business, food businesses must comply with the Food Act 2004 and specifically the food safety requirements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

Food businesses must now also comply with the requirements specified in the Directions.

Under the Directions, a food business must:

  • complete and submit to the Department of Health a COVID-19 safety plan checklist before reopening or expanding to seated patrons
  • place markings on the floor of its premises where customers may queue (for example, at the entrance, bathrooms or service counter)
  • make available/provide hand sanitiser to customers unless handwashing facilities are available
  • seat each customer or party of customers at separate tables
  • not seat more than 10 customers at a table
  • not permit a customer to bring their own food for consumption at the business
  • not allow a customer to consume any food or beverage at the business unless the customer is seated at a table
  • not serve liquor to a customer unless a meal is also served to the customer.

The CHO’s directions are laws and it is an offence to contravene a direction of the CHO.

It is important that you keep informed about the Directions of the CHO and any requirements or restrictions which relate to your type of business.

Information if you work in a food business

Everyone working in a food business has a responsibility to understand and think about how they can contribute towards community-wide efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

How coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread

Currently, there is no evidence of food-borne transmission being a significant pathway.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand provides further advice in relation to this matter.

COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person through close contact and droplets including:

  • direct contact with infected people
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching contaminated objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables), and then touching your mouth or face.

The best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect your business is through maintaining good hygiene practices and following physical distancing principles.

Things you should do

Before reopening, you should review all aspects of the food business that may increase the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.

This will allow your business to apply practical measures to reduce risk of infection between staff or to the general public.

Two hour time limit

A food business should limit the time a customer remains at the business to 2 hours per visit. This is intended to assist with contact tracing in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19.

Hygiene practices

The manager of a food business should provide training to staff on hygiene practices and any procedural changes that have been implemented to avoid spread of the virus.

Food handlers and other staff must maintain strict requirements around their health and hygiene.

  • wash your hands frequently when preparing foods, after going to the bathroom, after handling money and after touching your face or hair
  • avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • avoid touching areas that have been in direct contact with a customer
  • managers should provide training to staff on food handler hygiene practices
  • any worker with a suspected communicable disease (such as coughing, sneezing, flu-like symptoms) must be excluded from the workplace.

Information for staff

Staff members should not attend work if they are unwell. Managers should advise staff members to go home if the staff member is unwell.

Wearing gloves

Washing hands regularly or using hand sanitiser will offer more protection against coronavirus (COVID-19) than wearing gloves.

If you are feeling well, there is currently no need to wear gloves, other than as part of the business's normal food safety practices (such as handling ready to eat foods).

It is important to change gloves regularly between activities and wash hands thoroughly between glove changing to prevent contamination from used gloves onto the fresh gloves.

Wearing masks

If you are feeling well, there is currently no need to wear a protective mask. People should practise good hygiene and physical distancing in their workplace.

Physical distancing

A food business should:

  • seat different groups of customers at tables that are 1.5 metres away from another group
  • arrange table seating so different groups of customers are not seated face-to-face
  • encourage customers to remain 1.5 metres apart when moving through the business
  • at times where customers need to be closer than 1.5 metres apart, ensure the time spent in close contact is minimised with particular focus on minimising face-to-face close contact, to less than 15 minutes.
  • manage the entry and exit points of the business so that customers are not queuing at these points
  • display, at the entrance to the business, the number of customers that may be seated inside the business in order to maintain physical distancing
  • place signage around the business to remind customers and employees to maintain hygiene practices and to go home if the customer or employee is feeling unwell
  • place signage around the business to discourage customers crowding together in any one area of the business.
  • A minimum distance of 1.5 metres should be maintained at all times between you and any other people who are not part of your close circle of household or family contacts.
    This means you should not come closer than 1.5m (for more than 15 minutes) to other people such as workmates or those who you may encounter in any place outside of your home, other than those who you are already regularly, and necessarily in contact with to perform your work duties, such as a work partner with whom you travel regularly in a vehicle.
    Physical distancing remains one of the most important measures that we all can take to suppress and control the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Refer to SafeWork Australia for more information on physical distancing.

Cleaning and disinfecting

During the pandemic, extra cleaning needs to be carried out throughout the business.

You must keep your place of business clean and sanitised by taking the following measures:

  • Maintain thorough cleaning and sanitising of facilities, equipment and transport vehicles (including food contact surfaces and equipment).
  • Clean shared surfaces more frequently, at least twice a day. This could include door handles (front door, fridge/ freezer handles), bathrooms, service counters, handrails and EFTPOS keypads.
  • If you think a surface may be contaminated, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus.
  • Increase cleaning regimes for all other areas within the food business. Consider whether aspects of the Australian Government cleaning advice will add anything to your cleaning and disinfecting procedures.
  • Wash and sanitise all food preparation containers, utensils and chopping boards.

Cleaning products

Use a disinfectant which the manufacturer claims can kill viruses.

Chlorine-based (bleach) disinfectants are one product which is suitable.

Read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution and usage.

Bleach solutions should be made fresh daily as they become less effective over time.

The recommended concentration of available chlorine for routine disinfection of cleaned surfaces is 1000ppm as this concentration has been shown to be effective against the majority of microbial pathogens.

Disposable vs reusable cutlery, crockery, food and beverage containers

There is currently no evidence to suggest there is any benefit in switching to disposable single use food and beverage containers, cutlery and crockery.

A food business may continue to use standard containers, cutlery and crockery with appropriate hygiene, cleaning and sanitation processes in place.

Food businesses may continue to accept reusable cups and containers provided by the customer with appropriate hygiene and sanitation processes in place.

Self-service cutlery and condiments

Food businesses should limit any unnecessary shared surface touching to avoid the risk of contamination.

Staff should provide the required amount of cutlery to people on the table or have staff hand over cutlery and condiments to limit self-service.

Self-service areas like buffets, accommodation breakfast bars and aviation club lounges should be well supervised and require the customer to use hand sanitiser pre-commencement of service.

Areas must be regularly monitored and cleaning protocols to be adhered to.

Physical barriers

In certain situations, a physical barrier such as widening the counter can be used to help maintain physical distance between people.

Opaque or clear screen dividers of a suitable material that can be easily cleaned and disinfected can be used to create separation between people. These barriers should be appropriately designed and installed and be a size that creates protection for the person, especially around the face area.

Rubbish disposal

The risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) when handling waste is low. Normal collection of waste for households, retail and other businesses continues.

When managing waste, good hygiene practices should be followed:

  • Disposable gloves, masks, and other items should be placed in a rubbish bag before disposing of them with other domestic waste.
  • Hands should be washed with soap and running water or rubbed with an alcohol-based hand rub immediately after handling these items.

Takeaway and delivery service

Some takeaway and home delivery services have continued throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions including for food and beverages.

If your food business is registered with Environmental Health, there are no further registration or administrative requirements if you want to provide this service out of your registered kitchen.

You will, however, need to ensure your food business complies with the requirements of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, including:

  • ensuring appropriate packaging is used for takeaway
  • exercising good hygiene practices when packaging food
  • using an appropriate food transport vehicle
  • maintaining temperature control of food during delivery.

You should inform your customers that food for takeaway should be consumed immediately or refrigerated and not left out of temperature control.

Physical distancing for takeaway and delivery

Measures must be in place to allow customers to maintain a distance of 1.5m between people when picking up takeaway. The use of ground markers indicating where to queue and stand should be considered.

For home deliveries, ways to assist with physical distancing include promoting cashless payments and for deliveries to be placed at the door and stepping back when the customer collects the food.

Payments

Promote cashless payments, however if cash is exchanged ensure that hands are washed with soap and water, or a hand sanitiser is used after handling money.

Communication

It is important to communicate your COVID-19 safety steps with patrons. Provide updates on social media or via emails and provide signage and information at venues.

Encourage all your staff, volunteers and patrons to follow these guidelines in their daily life to keep our community safe.

More information

Contact Environmental Health COVID-19 Compliance on 1800 095 646.

Further information on food safety and coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.

Get COVID-19 information for workplaces on the Safe Work Australia website.