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Food safety and hygiene

Last updated on: 09-Apr-2021

9. Re-opening your Food Business after the COVID-19 shutdown

Checking over your premises

Watch out for any damage or deterioration during your absence, e.g. break-ins/theft, water leaks, wind damage.

If there’s any accumulation of refuse (indoors or outside), make arrangements with a licensed waste carrier for its urgent removal.

Carefully check everywhere for any signs of pests: holes under doors or around pipes, droppings, nibble damage to the food or structure, spillages of food, or insects. If so, call a reputable pest controller or Environmental Health for treatment or advice. You will need to discard any food or packaging that may have been contaminated; seal holes/gaps and thoroughly clean everywhere.

Water safety

When water stands still in your building’s pipework for more than a couple of weeks, there’s a risk of Legionella bacteria growing – these can cause Legionnaires Disease if water droplets or mist are inhaled by staff or customers when turning on the tap.

Before you do anything else, flush all your water outlets (e.g. taps, toilets/urinals, showers, pressure washers, air conditioning). This should be done gently, at low water pressure, to minimise aerosols:

  • If necessary, first pre-heat your hot water supply.
  • For mixer taps, gently run cold water taps first, then hot. Turn cold tap on at arms’ length whilst facing away, then move away and let the tap run for 2 minutes.
  • After turning off the cold tap, gently run the hot water tap for 2 minutes in the same way.
  • After this, put a thermometer under the water flow to ensure the hot water temperature reaches at least 60C. If not, adjust the hot water temperature on your boiler, wait for it to heat up and repeat this.
  • For shower heads, hoses or kitchen pressure washer taps, cover the head to reduce the spray by tying a polythene bag over it that has a small hole cut at the bottom. Always turn the head away from you and turn on with low pressure, initially just cold water for 2 minutes, then hot for 2 minutes. Remove the polythene bag and check the water temperature reached at least 60C. If not, adjust the boiler and repeat as above.

For more information please visit the Health and Safety Executive website.

Ongoing Coronavirus Distancing

Social distancing will need to continue for some time yet. Risk assess what controls you need to put in place to protect your staff and customers, including:

  • whether you need to reduce staff numbers to enable distancing in small areas,
  • screens to protect counter staff,
  • whether staff will wear masks or gloves, and your policy for changing these frequently,
  • how you will manage customers queuing, browsing, ordering or collecting,
  • frequent disinfecting of hand touch points (e.g. doors/handles, phones, counters, taps, light switches),
  • methods of payment to minimise contact (e.g. online pre-payment, contactless card payments).

Government advice

Additional Checks for Food Businesses

Is the food still in date?

Thoroughly check through all food stock (chilled, frozen and ambient) to ensure everything is still in date:

  • Chilled foods now past their Use By date must be assumed to be unsafe and therefore must be thrown away.
  • Stock that was labelled and frozen down before the Use By date, which is now beyond the date the manufacturer gave should be used up as a priority - but should be cooked, rather than sold frozen or defrosted direct to the public in its original packaging.
  • Sauces/condiments that were already opened should be thrown away, unless they have been kept at the right temperature AND you are certain they were opened within the time the manufacturer stated it will keep (for example, where the manufacturer states mayonnaise will keep for up to 6 weeks).
  • Products past their Best Before date may be used - provided they look, smell and taste okay. If selling these items unopened to the public, please make it clear that they are beyond their date so as not to mislead customers.

When you are ready to start

Ensure all your food handlers are fit for work. Anyone that  exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 or has sickness and diarrhoea should be sent home immediately. Follow Government guidelines on self-isolation before returning to work if you or your staff have had symptoms of Coronavirus. Food handlers suffering from sickness and/or diarrhoea can return to work 48 hours after their symptoms stop.

Make sure your written food safety management system (such as Safer Food Better Business) is in order and ready to start using again. It would be advisable to briefly review it to ensure it is still relevant and up to date for what you are now doing.

Check food hygiene training is up to date for your current staff.

Record when you have completed the opening checks in your Safer Food Better Business pack diary (or other food safety management system).

Make a note of the dates when you closed down and re-opened your business, in case you need to refer back to this later.

Check the fridges and freezers are keeping food cold enough (fridges below 8C and freezers below -18C).

Make sure you have enough cleaning materials: hand soap, paper towels, sanitiser, single use cloths…

Disinfect all sinks/basins, work surfaces and hand touch points before you start. And don’t forget to keep washing your hands and sanitising hand touch points! If you are wearing gloves they must be changed often and hands washed between changes.

Further information and guidance

If you require any further advice please email your Environmental Health Department on: commercialhealth.admin@gravesham.gov.uk

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