How to prepare, handle and deliver food safely, during COVID-19Small Business Advice 30 March 2020
While food hygiene is always an important consideration for the hospitality industry, now more than ever, it is crucial to follow strict health and safety protocols across your food and beverage business.
There is no evidence to suggest that Coronavirus can be transmitted from food, or food packaging. Despite this, there are certain extra precautions your business should take, in order to minimise the risk of transmission.
Before kitchen staff handle food, they should approach a clean prepared workstation. This means that they are able to place food on surfaces that are not contaminated or carry any dangerous bacteria. This best practice should be further emphasised during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Each workstation and surface should be cleaned with the relevant products, to both remove visible dirt or grease, as well as eradicating the unseen bacteria and germs. The three most commonly used cleaning products are:
To be used to clean tough grease and dirt from surfaces. They do not kill germs or bacteria.
Once you have removed grease or dirt with a detergent spray, you can then use a disinfectant solution. This will remove any bacteria from a visible clean surface.
A good sanitiser can both clean grime and grease as well as remove bacteria. Once you’ve used it to remove food or dirt and wiped clean, reapply and leave on the surface area for the recommended amount of time.
If any of your staff members are feeling unwell, or showing any signs of sickness, specifically cold or flu symptoms, they should not be in work. As an employer, you should send them home immediately, to self-isolate if needed.
If you’re worried about the additional costs of sick pay for staff unable to work due to COVID-19, see the government’s proposal for Statutory Sick Pay, and other financial support here.
For staff who have no signs of COVID-19, or other illness, and are preparing food in the kitchen, the pre-existing best practices for food handling still apply. The government however has now stressed that extra importance should be placed on:
Extra care should be taken by all employees to wash their hands routinely. This is especially essential for all staff that prepare and handle food.
Staff should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and antibacterial soap:
- Before and after they’ve handled food (especially meat)
- After using the toilet
- After touching a bin or food waste container
- After touching shared surfaces, such as door handles or electrical switches
- After touching their phone or other shared equipment
- After coming into the kitchen from a public space
- After touching their face
- After sneezing, coughing or blowing their nose
After washing, all staff should dry their hands properly with a disposable paper towel. Germs and bacteria can spread on damp or wet hands, therefore it is extremely important that food and equipment is only handled with dry clean hands.
It is advised that kitchen staff use a paper towel to turn the tap off, if it does not automatically do so after use.
As per usual guidance, staff that prepare food should wear clean and suitable clothing and refrain from wearing any items that are unnecessary that could catch or spread bacteria.
Anyone that handles food should:
- Always wear clean clothing in the kitchen
- Avoid touching their clothing as much as possible
- Wear a hat or hair net, and not have any loose hair on their face
- Not wear any jewelry or watches
All utensils should have been cleaned previously in high temperatures (70 degrees or above) before touching any foods. Chefs should take extra care to use a range of different utensils for raw food, ready-to-eat food, and food that requires washing before prepping or handling.
If possible, staff should stick to using their own set of utensils, which they are individually responsible for keeping clean. This will reduce the spread of bacteria and cross-contamination across different food stations.
It’s inevitable that food will carry bacteria, but when cooked properly, this is not a problem, as heat breaks down the harmful bacteria, eliminating health risks. The best way to kill bacteria in food is cooking it at the right temperature, and for the right amount of time.
The government advises that bacteria usually grow in the ‘Danger Zone’ between 8°C and 60°C. Below 8°C, growth is stopped or significantly slowed down. Anything above 60°C the bacteria will start to die.
The other time and temperature combinations are:
- 60°C for 45 minutes
- 65°C for 10 minutes
- 70°C for 2 minutes
- 75°C for 30 seconds
- 80°C for 6 seconds
The WHO has stated that the risk of passing on COVID-19 from food packaging is very low, but this does not mean that food containers and packaging should be ignored when considering hygiene.
Where possible, wipe down the outer surfaces of all packages, to minimise the bacteria entering your kitchen and lying dormant on surfaces.
In accordance with the government guidelines, all takeaway food must be delivered to consumers in a manner where it doesn’t become unsafe or unfit to eat. This applies to food that should stay at a specific temperature. One example is ice cream or dairy products, which should be kept in refrigerated storage containers.
All food businesses should identify possible cross-contamination risks in the delivery process, to manage allergies or specific dietary requirements.
The advice on social distancing is applicable across all industries and therefore when delivering food, your staff must adhere to these guidelines. People who are not living together should not stand within 2 metres of one another, and this also applies to delivery staff and customers.
Unfortunately, this can make it difficult for customers to pay by cash on collection. There are innovative ways in which delivery drivers have been taking card payments on collection, by leaving the portable card machine at a certain point.
This means that your delivery driver can liaise with the customer to leave the delivery in a safe allocated place, so as to maintain social distancing and protect customers.
If you’re a hospitality owner that needs to transition to a delivery-only business, check out BiteBack, our new free initiative to support and empower small and medium businesses during the pandemic.