These notes are particularly for businesses who have decided to offer home deliveries as an option during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The risk of contracting coronavirus via food is said by the WHO and Virologists such as Martin D’agostino from Campden BRI to be negligible.
You may want to put in place controls to manage the risk of food packaging possibly being contaminated with coronavirus but the likelihood of an infected person touching the packaging before delivery is also low. There are asymptomatic carriers so it still remains a possibility, however small.
Good personal hygiene, cleaning and sickness procedures should already be in place in your business so continue to follow them. This guidance does not go in-depth into the 4 C’s (cooking, chilling, cross-contamination and cleaning/disinfection) and assumes you are already aware of the principles of them to keep food safe.
Your customers may like to know what you are doing to reduce the risk to them, especially if they are high-risk people who are shielding or isolating themselves.
Aims of this guidance
This guidance aims to help you to:
Ensure you are legally compliant
Keep food safe
Keep customers safe
Keep delivery staff safe
Provide allergen information
Your obligations in terms of the legal requirements to provide safe food have not been relaxed during the pandemic, and in fact are more stringent than before due to the potential means of transmission of the virus.
Ask for help
If you are not sure if your methods are sufficient ask for help from your local Environmental Health team or a food safety consultant. If you have not previously registered as a food business you MUST do that with Environmental Health or via https://www.gov.uk/food-business-registration 28 days before starting up.
Documentation and a Food Safety Management System
All food businesses must have documentation, known as a Food Safety Management system (FSMS) in place to demonstrate how you buy, store, produce, cook, package and sell or serve safe food. If you have not considered deliveries in your current documentation, you must now include it and show how food will remain in a safe condition from preparation and packaging to storage, transport and via delivery.
october-2019.pdf can be used or to supplement your current system
Minimal contact with food is essential. Use frequent hand washing, clean utensils and use gloves where necessary. The more contact you have with food the higher the risk to the consumer and the more controls you have to put in place to manage that risk.
Trained staff may be in short supply. All staff must have a level of training appropriate to what they do. You can carry out training in house, use e-learning or by using your food safety documentation such as SFBB and monitoring what staff do. There are several providers out there or you can access a variety of High Speed Training courses via: The-training-centre
FREE allergy training via https://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/english/
Food Safety and Hygiene – Risks and how to manage them
Ensure that staff arrive at work well and do not have a temperature or persistent cough or any other symptom of illness or coronavirus. It may be tempting for some staff to go into work if the symptoms are mild, however they must stay at home.
Feeling Unwell poster Download, print and put up at work.
Encourage staff to check their own temperature before coming into work and ask the question – Are you exhibiting any symptoms today? Send home anyone that starts to experience symptoms.
NB: Viruses can survive up to 3 hours in droplets formed in the air after coughing and the tiny droplets (30 x smaller than the width of a human hair) can remain airborne for several hours.
Follow government/NHS advice.
What should I do? Download, print out and put up the poster.
Three steps Download, print out and put up the poster
Make sure you have measures in place if customers come into your business or collect from their car (e.g. one way travel through the shop, limiting the number of customers entering, hand gel for their use, reminding them not to touch or pick up anything they are not buying, marking 2m queueing points, contactless payment etc).
Ensure staff can socially distance and work 2m away from other staff and customers. Remind them to ask customers to stand away while their shopping is being put through the till. This may mean using other buildings or parts of your building not usually used for food service or storage. Put the lowest risk foods in these areas (tins or packages of dried goods) but check each day to ensure they are pest free and protected from contamination.
Provide adequate hand washing facilities and sanitising hand gel for staff and customers. You may find that staff are complainingof sore hands due to excessive hand washing and sanitising. Provide and encourage them to use a mild, unscented hand cream before and after work and to dry their hands well, but gently, after touching anything that could be contaminated as per usual hygiene rules (and before touching their faces).
Or you can use a product such as Dermashield available via amazon and other outlets to help protect skin at the start of the day. There are others available, but this is one we use.
Gloves: are not recommended for protection against coronavirus apart from NHS staff. It is better to wash hands frequently and use alcohol-based sanitiser in between.
Non-latex disposable gloves are often used to protect the food from the wearer in catering (or, if the wearer has allergies to the food). Wearing gloves continuously can make hands sore due to heat and sweat. If wearing gloves, use un-powdered ones and ensure that ‘glove breaks’ are taken to give hands a chance to breathe.
Delivery from suppliers:
As coronavirus has become more widespread, manufacturers are putting better measures in place to protect both staff and products from Covid-19, so the risk of contamination from packaging is reduced.
Request the company driver phones you when they have parked up to prevent them from walking inside (if possible).
Remember: transmission of the virus could be
- From person to person (High risk)
- From goods packaging to person (low risk)
- From person to goods (Medium risk)
The majority of transmissions are via person to person spread e.g. coughing or sneezing, but viruses can survive on hard surfaces as well. It’s thought this could be for up to 72 hours, or 3 days on plastic or steel, and up to 24 hours on cardboard.
The World Health Organisation states that asymptomatic people with covid-19 are unlikely to pass on the virus as they will not be coughing. However, those with a mild cough and who feel well may be able to.
- Keep 2m away from the driver while accepting the delivery.
- You should not have to sign a handheld device or paper copy of a delivery note. Businesses should have advised their delivery staff of this to protect them and you.
- If delivery is from a smaller business that does not use handheld devices, ask them to email the delivery note with a time and date. They could take a dated/timed photo for proof if necessary and send a copy with the note.
Is the item delivered needed right away?
If not and it doesn’t have a short shelf life or isn’t perishable, leave the delivery intact for 72 hours in a secure place to reduce any virus contamination as much as possible.
Routinely sanitise any handles or surfaces including those that have been touched when receiving the delivery.
Remember to wash your hands after handling goods.
Do you need it now or is it perishable?
Put the food delivery on a surface that can be cleaned and disinfected. You may decide to disinfect outer packaging first with a disinfectant spray or bleach solution with a concentration high enough to disinfect the packaging (check the manufacturer’s instructions), although the likelihood of contamination with Covid-19 is low.
At this point, there is no-one to cough or sneeze to infect you with Covid-19 but you could still introduce contamination into your body by touching your face or eyes with contaminated hands if the packaging were contaminated.
Wash your hands.
Clean and disinfect any areas the packaging or your hands have touched.
If you don’t disinfect the outer packaging, remove it and dispose of into a bin bag, or recycling bin.
Wash your hands. Ensure to disinfect surfaces or hand contact points (door handles, light switches) more frequently than normal.
Open the package (if necessary) and take out the contents to store.
Chilled and frozen storage
Keep equipment clean and disinfected.
Separate raw and high risk/cooked ready to eat foods.
Chilled: Keep air temperature between 2oC and 5oC and check this daily by looking at the display or using a probe in the fridge (before you start work and at the end). Keep a record. Chilled food temperature must be kept below 8oC.
Frozen: Keep the air temperature -18oC or colder. Deliveries of frozen goods can be as warm as -15oC.
If the air temperature on the display seems high, check an item of food. It is OK to use an IR temperature gun to check chilled or frozen food temperatures as the outside will be the warmest part. This will minimise any potential to introduce pathogens into the food.
If there isn’t a digital display on the fridge or freezer or you don’t have an IR temperature gun, you can place a probe in the fridge or freezer, but not near to the outlet for the cold air or freezer box in a fridge. This will work if it has a long cable to the probes display unit. You can also check a product substitute left in the fridge e.g. a small bottle of water but change the water periodically.
Note: Do not overstock fridges or freezers as this will prevent air circulation and not allow the food to remain at a safe temperature.
Some foods may not need any preparation if the business is a farm shop or retailer. However, if the business is a caterer or the business has decided to start catering then safe preparation and storage are key. Don’t forget to provide PPE e.g. Aprons, ‘whites’ hats/hairnets and safety shoes.
‘high risk’ food to be delivered chilled or frozen for reheating
High-risk foods include main meals e.g. bolognaise or shepherd’s pie and snacks such as meat-based pasties or sausage rolls.
Keep it simple and do not cook complex foods.
Ensure the food is cooked to the correct temperature (aim for 75oC in the centre).
Cool quickly, covered, to prevent contamination, for a maximum of 90 minutes at room temperature.
Place in a clean container with a lid.
If selling fresh: Label with the date of production, a full ingredient list (as it’s now pre-packed) with allergens highlighted and a Use By date. Use 3 days including the date of production to be safe or 2 days for dishes containing fish. Add reheating instructions if applicable.
Then put in a fridge and deliver within the Use By date.
If selling frozen: Write the production date on the label and freeze as soon as possible after production. Sell frozen with the ingredients list including highlighted allergens, defrosting, reheating/cooking and shelf life information once thawed (1 day is recommended).
Cooking low-risk food e.g. bread, cakes and biscuits
Prepare cook, cool away from contamination and covered if possible. Using cake covers allows air to circulate without the risk of contamination by insects or flies.
Do not touch the product with your hands. Use disposable gloves or utensils.
Package to prevent contamination.
Label with an ingredients list with allergens highlighted.
Remember if you are taking customers’ orders to their homes or to workplaces you are delivering pre-packed food and need to provide a full list of ingredients with the allergens highlighted:
Ensure that fridges and freezers are not overloaded to allow good air circulation and food stays in the legal range. (Chilled food < 8oC and frozen < -18oC (apart from ice cream on display for sale -12oC)
Keep raw foods wrapped and below cooked food if you don’t have a separate fridge.
Make sure you stock rotate using the Use By or ‘Frozen On’ dates applied when you have prepared the food.
Keep foods stored at ambient (room temperature) off the floor to allow for easy cleaning underneath and to check for pests.
Stock rotate food.
Packing for delivery
Put items for delivery in bags. Do not deliver in plastic crates. One person only in a vehicle (but ensure you put lone working procedures into place).
Be helpful and put ambient goods into one bag (they can then leave it for 3 days if they wish without touching anything) and fridge/freezer goods into another. Use separate bags for raw and ready to eat/reheat. Make sure all high-risk goods have Use By dates on them and allergen/defrosting / reheating / thawing/ cooking instructions are provided if applicable.
Label the bag with the customer’s name/address to prevent confusion, particularly over allergens.
Getting delivery vehicles ready
Make sure the vehicle is clean. If not specifically used for food deliveries put a clean cloth or disposable paper on the base of the vehicle or line baskets or crates with clean paper (not newspapers) and place bags inside.
If using a chilled vehicle, check the air temperature.
If not using a chilled vehicle, high-risk ready to eat goods (such as cooked meat, cooked dishes or dairy products) are allowed to go above 8oC for a maximum of 4 hours. But ensure delivery rounds are as short as possible and load chilled /frozen goods last. Ideally use cool packs or insulated boxes (if you don’t have them you can use a polystyrene box with ice packs inside).
Hot food is allowed to go below 63oC for a maximum of 2 hours and is still considered safe. Recommend that it is reheated on delivery or cooled immediately and placed in the fridge until reheating. Keep delivery time within 30 minutes.
Delivery to customers
Ideally take orders and payment by phone. Arrange a delivery or collection day/time. Assure them (if necessary) that the government advice is that coronavirus is not passed on in food and the risk from packaging is low.
Advise them (if asked) to wash fruit and vegetables under running water, they do not need to use soap!
Place the bags on the ground outside the customer’s door.
Knock on the door or ring the bell. Step back 2m or more. Wait until the customer opens the door before you leave. Some businesses may require proof of delivery, so we suggest delivery drivers take a photo of the bags in front of the open door. Do not ask customers to sign anything.
It is not advisable to leave chilled high-risk goods on a doorstep or porch if a customer does not answer as this could lead to them going above the safe temperature for an undetermined amount of time and possibly making the food unsafe.
Sanitise your hands before you return to your vehicle using 60% minimum alcohol-based gel.
https://www.acs.org.uk/ Useful links to various posters for retailers
If you have any questions do email on firstname.lastname@example.org
REMEMBER guidance from the Government and NHS is constantly being updated. Ensure you check for updates and follow this at all times.