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Food businesses and coronavirus

The situation with coronavirus means that food business operators must evaluate, adapt and change to ensure that the risk of spread is minimised while maintaining a degree of business continuity. It is also extremely important that food supplies are maintained during this time and providing safe, nutritious food is vital to reduce any additional burdens on the health service.

The advice below is for existing food businesses. If you are thinking of starting a food business, the advice still applies, but you must also register by completing the form at www.gov.im/categories/business-and-industries/food-business-register/  and we will contact you to discuss your proposal.

Can I provide a takeaway and/or a delivery service from my existing, registered food business?

Yes, following the announcement regarding additional steps to protect Manx residents and the closure of pubs, clubs restaurants, bars and cafés to ‘dine-in’ customers, these businesses are urged to consider providing a takeaway service and/or phone or online food delivery service from the venue, where they are equipped to do so. 

No food or drink can be consumed by customers on any premises. Customers are also not permitted to sit and consume food at outside seating areas, within the curtilage or under the responsibility of the food business.

If you are offering a takeaway service from an existing pub, café or restaurant you must take measures to ensure that customers do not gather inside your premises. Wherever possible, orders should be handed over at the entrance to the premises (in some cases businesses are handing over orders to customers in their vehicles outside the premises) and if you are asking customers to queue, you should put controls in place to ensure that a physical distance of at least 2 metres is maintained between each customer.

It is very important that you think about the way that food is provided and take appropriate precautions to ensure that the food that you supply is safe. As a food business operator you still have a legal responsibility to provide safe food and you must comply with current food hygiene law.

Will I need planning permission for my food delivery/takeaway service?

If you are an existing registered food business and you wish to extend your service during the current Coronavirus restrictions to provide takeaways and/or deliveries please contact  planning@gov.im and entitle you enquiry at ‘Hot and Cold Food Takeaway-Deliveries’.

You should give details of your current business, including its address, and what you intend to do. The Department will be considering flexible arrangements for a short term period to allow businesses to keep operating and to meet the communities’ needs.

How do I deliver food safely?

Food must be prepared under normal hygienic conditions following usual food safety procedures such as Safer Food Better Business or your own specific food safety system, which may need to be reviewed to take into account changes to normal operations.

  • Place food in new single use sealed containers.
  • Temperature control must be maintained. Hot or cool boxes/bags should be utilised to ensure that the temperature does not drop below 63°C or above 5°C, as appropriate.
  • Hot/Cool boxes or bags should be thoroughly disinfected between each use.
  • Food and packaging should be protected from contamination at all times.
  • Vehicle interiors must be kept clean and where possible disinfected on a regular basis including hand contact surfaces such as the steering wheel and gear stick.

Can I offer outdoor eating?

Restaurants and cafés can start making preparations for a possible opening of any outdoor areas on 1 June for food-led services. This may require an adaption of existing seating to ensure social distancing.

Draft guidance is now available to review:

See: Hospitality Sector Guidance – DRAFT 

See:  Checklist for Restarting a Food Business

What do I have to tell my customers about allergens?

Items should be labelled/marked in order that the customer can identify what is in each container. This is particularly important with regards to allergens.

When taking the order, staff must ask the question as to whether they need to be aware of any allergies/intolerances. Dishes should then be clearly labelled and allergens highlighted.

You should consider offering a limited menu for home delivery which can be published and provide details online or over the phone about allergens. A limited menu allows management of the control of allergens more effectively.

How can I minimise the risk of coronavirus spread with customer collections and when delivering food?

In the interests of preventing the spread of infection, delivery drivers could wear disposable gloves. Changing them between each customer delivery and also utilising sanitiser/wipes in the absence of hand washing.  Delivery drivers should not be entering customer’s premises and payment should be made online or over the phone in order to avoid the handling of cash.

Cleaning and sanitising customer areas should be stepped up, with particular emphasis on hand contact surfaces.

How can I minimise the risk of coronavirus spread within my retail premises?

Retail premises play an essential role in getting our Island through this crisis and the following guidance should be followed to minimise the risk of spreading infection:

  • Clear signage should be in place around the store to encourage social distancing and good hygiene practices.
  • Checkouts, shop floors and entrances should be marked with tape to define 2 metre safe distancing.
  • Awareness of symptoms and personal hygiene measures should be reinforced with staff.
  • Ensure staff have access to suitable hand washing facilities. Hands should be washed as often as possible for a minimum of 20 seconds with hot water and soap.
  • Sanitiser should be available for staff to use between hand washing and consideration should be given to asking customers to sanitise hands as they enter the store.
  • Surfaces and touch points should be regularly disinfected, particularly trolley and basket handles, counters, door handles, card machines, tills etc. Where possible trolley and basket handles should be disinfected after each use.
  • Where possible staff should wear disposable gloves, however these should be changed between each customer in order to minimise the spread of infection.
  • Where necessary (e.g. particularly within smaller stores) the number of customers allowed in the store at any one time could be limited to allow for safe distancing to be effective.
  • Wherever possible contactless payment methods should be used. If staff do handle cash it is important that they then wash their hands before serving the next customer.

How can I minimise the risk of coronavirus spread in my workplace?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.

You can help prevent the spread of coronavirus by reminding everyone of the public health advice including:

Employees and customers should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal.

  • One of the ways we become infected, or pass on viruses to others, is through the droplets in coughs and sneezes – for instance through someone who has a virus, coughing onto their hand, then touching a door handle.
  • A simple and effective way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus is by making sure you wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or a hand sanitiser if you are out and about. It’s particularly important to wash your hands once you get home or arrive at work or before you prepare or eat food.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • If you are unwell it’s vital that you catch your coughs and sneezes in a tissue, or use your arm if needed, throw the tissues away, then wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that have been touched (counters, doorknobs, toilets, phones, etc.) on a regular basis.
  • Washing hands after handling cash is particularly important. Where possible, businesses could encourage the use of contactless payment methods.

If an employee shows flu-like symptoms they must be excluded from work and follow the self isolation guidance.

What measures do I take within my business premises if I have a staff member who has been advised to self-isolate but has not been confirmed to have COVID-19?

Reasons for self –isolation where there is a risk of COVID-19 infection include:  a person who has returned, a person who has symptoms that may be COVID-19 and is waiting for a test, a person who  is a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 and has been advised by the Public Health Contact Tracing Team to self-isolate.  

Provided good infection control and social distancing has been conducted in the work place the risk should be low. If there is specific work equipment and work stations used by the person then they must be cleaned and disinfected. Strict food safety standards and infection control procedures must be followed throughout.

Someone may also be self-isolating because they have a health condition that makes them very high risk of complications if they get COVID-19.  People in this group are self-isolating to shield themselves from the virus.  They are not a risk for spreading the virus to other people.  If you have a staff member in this group, they should be supported to be off work and ‘shield’ at home.  There are no additional hygiene/infection controls needed for your premises.

What measures do I take within my business premises if I have a staff member who has been confirmed as having Covid-19 ?

If your staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19 a member of the Public Health team will interview the affected person and identify people they have had contact with during the period they could have been passing on COVID-19.  This will include anyone they were in contact with in the workplace.  The Public Health Contact Tracing Team will be in touch with you to advise if there are any actions for you as an employer or in respect of your premises.

I have a question that is not answered above

If you require further advice contact Environmental Health at ehenquires@gov.im.

See also:  Guidance for food businesses