Food business reopening? Make sure you’re ready

These are unusual times and many companies have been forced to adapt and diversify in order to survive. Food businesses which are part of the hospitality trade are now finding themselves reopening and selling directly to the public. Sit-down restaurants are offering takeaway food. Farm shops are offering deliveries or click-and-collect services…

If you are planning on reopening your food business, you will need to make sure that you have taken all reasonable precautions to produce food safely and to protect your staff and customers from COVID-19. There are quite possibly more elements to consider than you might have first thought.

Reopening checklist for food businesses

To make life a little simpler, the Food Standards Agency has produced a Reopening Checklist for food businesses during COVID-19. The first on the list is letting your Local Authority know that you are going to re-open your business. You also need to tell them of any change to the business activities you have registered. For example, if you are introducing a takeaway or delivery service for the first time, they should be informed.

Changing the way your business operates means that any new procedures need to be written into your Food Safety Management System and trained out to staff. Think about how you are going to manage food allergens, potential cross-contamination, temperature control during the delivery or collection of your products? Ask yourself if the packaging you are intending to use is fit for the job. Is it made from food grade materials and is it stored hygienically?

Ensuring staff safety in a food business

Before reopening, make sure that your staff have the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and that you have plenty in stock. If clothing is to be re-used, consider how workers can change out of it safely and launder it. Ensure that your staff are well and fit to work by conducting telephone interviews beforehand. Those staff that can come in to work should be trained in any new procedures before commencing work. Increased handwashing is of particular importance. Hands should be washed properly for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm water and dried using disposable paper towels.

If social distancing is possible, try to ensure that staff keep a distance of two metres between them. Where it is not possible try to have the same teams working together, or put measures in place such as screens to minimise potential transmission of the virus. Additionally, procedures for visitors to site or for dealing directly with the public should be drawn up and implemented.

It’s not just about the products you are making. You also need to make sure that any waste is disposed of safely. Check to see that your waste carrier is still running and operating a regular service. If not, this could present a food safety hazard.

Check and clean everything

If you haven’t entered your premises for several weeks it’s a good idea to flush through taps and other equipment with water systems, to guard against the risk of legionella. Dishwashers and glass washers should also be run empty on a hot cycle. Obviously, it goes without saying that all surfaces and machinery should be deep cleaned.

Any fridges, freezers and chilled display cabinets need to be cleaned thoroughly and given the chance to reach temperature before filling. Re-calibrate equipment if necessary. Check all use-by dates on ingredients and ensure there is no damage to packaging.

The above are just some of the reopening considerations. At the end of the day, you need to ensure that your staff and anyone you deal with externally stays as safe as is reasonably practicable. You also need to consider the impact new ways of working could have on food safety and amend your food safety management systems accordingly.

We wish you the very best of luck and hope that your business gets back on track and continues to thrive.

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