Environmental Health - Food Safety & Standards

Regulatory Services COVID-19 Business Advice

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

This page has been developed by the Environmental Health Team. Please note that the situation and guidance is evolving and whilst we endeavour to keep this page up to date, please refer to the Government’s website for the latest guidance.

The following paragraphs outline some of the key issues and provide links to external sources for further information. This list is not an exhaustive and does not constitute legal advice.

Business Closure – Can I Open?

The Government has passed legislation requiring businesses selling food and drink for consumption on the premises to cease and other businesses where the public socialise to close with immediate effect. The Government have now set out their COVID-19 Recovery Strategy. This plan has several stages and some provisional dates; however, these are about making the right decision at the right time.  There are a number of contributory factors that feed into the overall alert level which is a measurement of how strict the restriction measures need to be. 

The situation is constantly under review, therefore please ensure that you keep up to date by referring to the Government’s website

You must not open your business if it is required to be closed under the current government Regulations although you can offer a delivery or click and collect service.

If your business is not on the list then you may open without committing an offence under these Regulations, however the opening of premises and services must be a decision for you as a business.

Health and Safety – working safely during COVID-19

You have responsibilities and duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees and persons not in your employment.

You must take appropriate steps to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic. 

This will mean undertaking a risk assessment and putting in place controls necessary to protect employees and members of the public from the risk of contracting coronavirus.  Where an employer has 5 or more staff, they should document their significant findings.

The Government have produced guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely

This has detailed, tailored advice for key sectors and these will continue to be added as we move through recovery.

It is noted that much of the guidance on social distancing is currently subject to the caveat of ‘where possible’. Social distancing should therefore not be the only control measure, there are other ways to achieve compliance and some of these are outlined in guidance provided on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Please note: these are not legal standards but should be used to guide and assist business decisions and safe systems of operation.  Human behaviour will play a significant role in achieving a safe working environment, therefore training, instruction and supervision play an important role.

This department will be responding to complaints and undertaking interventions with businesses. Organisations that have failed or refused to consider the risk, or implement any control measures, are more likely to be subject to enforcement action.

Re-Opening - Other Considerations

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have produced a  helpful checklist for food businesses who are looking to re-open after a temporary shutdown.

Legionella

National restrictions put in place to deal with coronavirus (COVID-19) have led many businesses to close, or to change the way they operate. Consideration must be given to the risks associated with Legionella bacteria forming in water supplies where warm water is allowed to stand stagnant in pipes, showers, storage tanks, hosepipes and other pieces of equipment.

The problem may occur after lockdown restrictions are eased when businesses reopen and start to use showers, jet wash equipment, hosepipes, mixer/spray taps and any other water systems where an aerosol can be created and therefore Legionella bacteria can be inhaled into the lungs of those in susceptible risk groups.

During the Government lockdown it is important to run taps and equipment connected to the mains water supply in premises to reduce the build-up of Legionella bacteria and limescale. This will help to prevent the growth of the bacteria in a water system.

In hotels or leisure facilities with swimming pools, spa pools and showers it is important that boilers, pump filters and any other pieces of water management equipment are not switched off. Taps, showers and equipment connected to water systems must be run/flushed on a frequent basis to ensure the water does not stagnate in pipework and allow the growth of Legionella bacteria.

Further guidance  on managing Legionella in water systems during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has been provided by the ESCMID Study Group for Legionella Infections.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health have also produced guidance on Legionnaires' Disease: Lockdown Risks and Reopening Safely

Pest

Thorough cleaning of food premises, removal of all food items and food waste should already have been completed when the business closed. The advice to businesses now is to check your food premises and food storage areas regularly to ensure there are no issues with pests.

Typical food pests include mice, rats, cockroaches, and ants. Consideration must now be given to maintenance of closed buildings to check that no entry holes or damage to buildings has been caused which would allow the ingress of pests. Also, overgrowth of bushes and trees around food premises which may now harbour pests should be removed wherever possible.

The risks posed by pests in any food handling premises are diverse. They can spread disease, cause damage to property and foodstuffs. If you find problems with rats or mice, you should check electrical cables for signs of damage from gnawing. All food preparation surfaces and equipment must be cleaned with hot soapy water and with antibacterial spray compliant with BSEN 1276. Any food items that are not protected in sealed containers or cans must be disposed of.

Effective pest management programmes should prevent the introduction of pests anywhere on a food premises and reduce the conditions that may encourage pest activity or facilitate their survival.

Further guidance can be found at Chartered Institute of Environmental Health website (CIEH) – Pest Control in the food industry.

 

Guidance Specific for Food Businesses During COVID-19

It is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.  Food Businesses have been permitted to trade on a delivery or takeaway basis.

The Isle of Wight Council understand that businesses may look to change their business model and diversify in order to maintain their business during this time.

A business will only be in a position do this if they are registered as a food business with the Local Authority.

Further advice has been provided in guidance issued by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

Further advice is also available from Business Companion website.

Preventing Food Waste

Unnecessary food waste is likely to be a consequence of coronavirus (COVID-19). The term ‘unnecessary’ in this context refers to food past its Best Before date, which is otherwise safe to eat.

The FSA website has some helpful advice about best before and use by dates

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), FSA and DEFRA produced a leaflet - Labelling guidance targeting business which was updated November 2019.