Advice for food businesses

Person serving coffee over the counter in a cafe

1. Overview

Yarra Ranges Council strongly recommend all businesses providing food services have measures in place to reduce the risk of infection during the current pandemic that are specific to the food industry.

Coronavirus is spread via tiny droplets when in close contact with other people and contaminated surfaces but there is no evidence that it is food borne.

The normal requirements for food businesses to produce food safely remains in place. Where practical, cook foods up to at least 75 degrees Celsius, keep hot foods hot (above 60 degrees Celsius) and cold foods at or below 5 degrees Celsius. If food is in the danger zone (between 5-60 degrees Celsius) ensure that the 2/4 hour rule is implemented as per your Food Safety Program (page 25 for the Department of Health Food Safety Program template).

In particular, whilst there are potentially lower numbers of people around, monitor potential pests such as mice or rats who may take advantage and try to enter food businesses. Check your Food Safety Program for information and:

  • Check the kitchen and premise for holes in the walls, ceiling, doors and flooring or under equipment and block with appropriate materials;
  • Make sure foods are stored in well-sealed containers that prevent harbourage;
  • Monitor for pests on an ongoing basis in hard to reach areas such as the back of storage shelves or wall corners and take action as soon as you notice a potential issue arising. 

Management can also take a proactive stance to the reduction of risk at their businesses by following advice in the key areas below.

2. Hand washing

Regular hand washing is a key part of the Department of Health’s messages to the public as this forms an integral part of infection control. In the usual setting, viruses and bacteria can be spread from surfaces, to our hand when we touch them and then onto to our faces through incidental touching such as scratching or rubbing our skin. They can then make their way into our bodies from the skin.

Hand washing is a mechanical action in which oils and dirt are removed from skin by rubbing off skin and soap helping do dissolve oils. When washing a good rule of thumb is to rub hands together for 20 seconds (or sing happy birthday twice) and rub along fingers, thumbs and hand contours to make contact with all the surfaces. When you have finished use paper towelling to dry and then discard instead of cloth towelling to ensure any virus or bacteria are not left on the towelling and to reduce the risk of reapplying to the hands.

Video demonstrations can be found at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQCP7waTRWU

3. Food deliveries - Uber Eats/Menulog etc

There may be customers who are self-isolating due to the pandemic and may advise that this is the case, but it is recommended that the same approach is used for all customers to reduce risk to workers and customers.

The risk of transmission can be minimised by:

  • Providing delivery drivers with hand sanitisers for use after any contact with door handles, door jambs or door bells to reduce risk. Gloves can also be used but remember to change after each customer and dispose appropriately to reduce further transmission. 
  • Advise delivery drivers to leave the food at the door of private residences where ever possible and that delivery drivers social distance at least 1.5metres from the customer once it has been dropped off
  • Wherever possible provide contactless payment methods, preferably payment options that allow no contact such as credit cards over the phone or through an app.
  • If food is to be dropped off at a complex, ensure that drivers are able to meet the customer at the door to reduce risks to the driver by entering the complex;
  • For those self-isolating, it may be possible to drop food deliveries or groceries to the Building Manager’s office or another contact to reduce contact and the risk of transmission.

Temperature control during transport is not necessary if the food is to be delivered straight away as the temperature is unlikely to drop to levels that allow harmful bacteria to grow. If you are unable to guarantee a short delivery time then eskies or hot boxes or other temperature control measures must be put in place.

Ensure that food is well packaged to prevent potential contamination and that containers are sealed.

Food packaging is not known to present any particular risk of transmission in the usual food business setting but can be cleaned and sanitised in as per usual if you wish to further reduce risk (see below).

4. Cleaning and sanitisers 

Sanitation is a legal requirement under the Food Standards Code for all food contact surfaces of equipment and is set out in your Food Safety Program. It is on page 52 of the Department of Health template if you have this one in use at your business.

First use hot soapy water to remove food debris and grease as these act as a barrier to the sanitiser, then reduce the load of potential food poisoning bacteria with a sanitation step.  This can be done with a Food Grade Sanitiser solution (commercial or bleach solution) or the heat from the dishwasher. Do not use vinegar as it is a mild acid and does not reduce pathogen load adequately.

Further information can be found in the Food Standards Code:

https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodsafety/standards/Pages/Cleaning-and-sanitising.aspx

When cleaning items such as crockery and tea towels, remember to use the hottest settings available in your washing machine and the dishwasher as this will help to deactivate the virus.

In addition, there is strong recommendation of regular general cleaning by staff of all common areas including staff kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas, and frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, door jambs, light switches and other common touch areas with disinfectant or antibacterial detergent. Frequent cleaning helps to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus and we suggest at least daily.

Further information and cleaning guidelines can be found at:

Cleaning and disinfecting to reduce covid-19 transmission (Department of Health & Human Services, Victorian Government)

5. Staff hygiene 

If you, an employee or someone you have come in contact with suspects that they have COVID-19 they should self-isolate immediately and can also complete the interactive self-assessment which will help them better understand the precautions that should be taken. If you have any further queries about coronavirus and symptoms, please contact the COVID-19 Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) hotline on 1800 675 398.

Employers should emphasise the importance of personal hygiene and hand washing with staff. This includes:

  • Washing hands frequently for 20 seconds with warm water, soap and single use paper towelling (see hand washing);
  • Covering face or using arm/elbow when coughing and sneezing, disposing of tissues and use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
  • Social distancing of 1.5 metres.

Wearing gloves can allow bacteria to build up on people’s hands, so even though staff members can wear gloves, good glove changing practices need to be implemented:

  • Change gloves in between tasks e.g. smoking, changing bin liners, opening/closing doors, handling raw chicken etc.
  • Wash hands in-between glove changes
  • Staff members need to avoid touching their mouth, eyes or face
  • Discard the gloves once they have been removed staff members hands

Gloves must not be used as a substitute for hand washing.

6. Pandemic resources

Information relating to cleaning of equipment and food contact surfaces, translations and specific to food businesses activities can be found in the Food Businesses FAQ’s/Resources links on our webpage at:

https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Council/Coronavirus-Updates/Support-for-business-COVID-19

More information about food safety and COVID-19 can be found on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.

7. Looking after yourself and others

We encourage you to seek out support and look out for the mental health of everyone around you. 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/

8. Contact Us

If you have any questions specifically relating to the coronavirus, please email healthalerts@yarraranges.vic.gov.au
For any general questions in regards to your registration etc., please contact 1300 368 333 or mail@yarraranges.vic.gov.au
For any other business related enquiries, please email business@yarraranges.vic.gov.au