FAQ's for food businesses (COVID-19)

people preparing bread for sale

Answers to frequently asked questions for food business during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. 

What do I do if my staff member is unwell?

If a staff member meets the case definition of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is recommended that they not handle or prepare food and self-isolate at home immediately.

Individuals can also complete the interactive self-assessment to better understand the precautions they should take.

If a staff member is feeling unwell, generally, it is recommended they not handle or prepare food.

For further information about Coronavirus and symptoms contact the COVID-19 DHHS hotline on 1800 675 398.

What are the new restrictions to food businesses?

Stage two restrictions on social gatherings and non-essential businesses were announced on 24 March 2020, and will be reviewed on a monthly basis.

It is expected these measures will be in place for at least 6 months.

The following will be restricted from opening from 11:59pm on Wednesday, 25 March 2020:

  • Pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues, health clubs, yoga barre and spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses and wellness centres
  • Personal training and boot camps (can be held outside, with a maximum of 10 people, with four square metres between each person)
  • Auction houses, real estate auctions and open house inspections
  • Beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons, tattoo parlours
  • Spas and massage parlours
  • Play centres (indoor and outdoor)
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, convert venues, arenas, auditoriums and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square meter rule applies).

Public gatherings of people have been restricted to two people (outside of housemates and immediate family). Stage 3 restrictions as of 12.01am, Tuesday, 31 March, will include an on-the-spot fine from Victoria Police for anyone breaching the restriction on public gatherings of more than two people (aside from those in your household). 

Visit the Prime Ministers website for further information about the restrictions.

I don’t currently do take-away or home delivery. Can I start take-away or home delivery services?

If you are currently registered as a café/restaurant or take-away business (see your Certificate of Registration to confirm) you can start home delivery or take-away services under your current registration if you meet the following criteria below:

  • Do not change or alter your current Environmental Health Officer (EHO) approved menu item(s)
  • If you prepare, cook and cool food items for sale at a later time you will require an amendment to your food safety program or the foodsmart program and an inspection from an EHO, as this may be classified as food manufacturing
  • Do not change your activities within your food business classification (e.g. Class 2, Class 3)
  • Your food safety program is up to date (e.g.  temperature records, food suppliers list thermometer calibrations etc.)
  • Use single use food grade containers and cutlery for delivery food items only
  • Continue to use your EHO approved kitchen, do not use an alternative or additional non approved kitchen (e.g. community center, home etc.) 

If you don't have a Planning Permit to allow takeaway food, we are currently advising businesses that they can commence serving takeaway and/or home delivery during the COVID-19 situation, provided they meet the relevant Health Handling Approvals and conditions set out above.

Once the State Government restrictions are lifted, businesses will need to transition back to not offering takeaway or home delivery unless they have an appropriate Planning Permit.

Temporary and Mobile premises - please ensure take away food/beverages only applies at all times, no seating/dining facilities to be provided.      

For further guidance on food delivery please see the DHHS webpage on food business home delivery guide . We recommend due diligence when providing take away foods, good business practice is to ensure reheating advice and best before/used by dates are provided to customers to minimize the risks of foodborne illness.   

Can I accept Keep Cups at my business?

At this point, it is up to each business as to whether they accept them. This advice may change so keep up to date with the DHHS Food Safety webpage. As COVID-19 and also bacteria and viruses can survive on cups, it would be best to avoid them.

My supplier has run out of my normal food-grade sanitiser, what can I use?

You can make a sanitiser solution using 4% household bleach (unscented). Add 2.5ml (half a teaspoon) of bleach to 1 litre of cold water.

Use in a spray bottle, or to soak dishes in after hand-washing them (for those that don’t clean and sanitise equipment in a dishwasher). This makes a 100ppm (parts per million) dilution.

When using a bleach and water sanitiser, you need to make up a fresh solution each day. 

Check the DHHS chlorine sanitiser calculator for all available chlorine percentages. Further guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting are also available from DHHS.

We’re running out of paper towel for hand-washing, what can we use?

Try to restock paper towel as soon as possible – paper towel is the best way to dry hands.

In the meantime, you can use hand or tea towels. However a clean tea towel should be used each time someone washes their hands. That tea towel then needs to go into a basket/ container for dirty tea towels, and get laundered through a washing machine on a hot cycle before it is used again.

The environmental health officer looks unfamiliar, should I report it to Council?

It has been reported to DHHS that there have been people impersonating council Environmental Health Officers directing stall holders at markets to cease trading.

Please ensure that you ask the visiting Environmental Health Officer for their identification card on arrival. Other forms of identification that do not show council information, such as a drivers licence, is not acceptable.

Council health officers are continuing to monitor premises registered under the Food Act 1984 and the Public Health & Wellbeing Act 2008 during the current state of emergency.

Resources

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Food Safety Unit has updated food safety advice to food businesses in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and federal restrictions. They will continue to update the information, so keep yourself informed of changes by visiting Advice for food businesses on Coronavirus. This page has useful information and answers some of the questions we have also been asked by businesses. Translated information is also available.

Council understands the feelings of anxiety, distress and concern many people may be experiencing in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Beyond Blue can offer wellbeing advice. If you feel like you need to speak to someone, please contact them on 1300 224 636 or visit their website https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Please also continue to follow your legislative requirements via the following websites: