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Information from MPI

What can food business owners/managers do to manage the COVID-19 risk?

Throughout the outbreak of COVID-19, we are seeing important implications for food safety within the food and beverage industry.

Businesses which are not Alert Level 4 Businesses and Services must be closed.

Good hygiene

It is more important than ever that food businesses apply strict food preparation and hygiene practices.

In addition, if you are an employer, we ask that you:

  • make sure staff are aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, and how they can self-isolate if the need arises

  • ensure that food handlers are trained appropriately in food hygiene practices appropriate to their premises

  • ensure effective supervision of food handlers to reinforce hygienic practices

  • ensure that appropriate facilities are provided for hand washing and/or sanitation (for example, alcohol gels/wipes) to enable food handlers to practice good hygiene

  • ensure that sufficient clean face masks are available for staff through their work shift

  • ensure that food handlers and external contractors are aware that they must report any signs/symptoms of respiratory illness before or during work to their employer.

  • be vigilant and ensure that food handlers and other staff are not ill and are fit to work

  • check staff health daily before starting work and ensure that staff with symptoms stay home until medical advice is obtained and they are cleared to return to work

  • must not require or knowingly allow workers to come to a workplace when they are sick with COVID-19, or if they have been advised to self-isolate under public health guidelines for COVID-19.

Scheduled food verification

Food verification services are Alert Level 4 Businesses and Services to support businesses during Alert Level 4. It’s very important that these continue during the COVID-19 response to make sure food safety is managed properly.

Advice for food handlers

Food handlers at businesses and at home should continue to follow standard, good personal hygiene practices that reduce the risk of transmission of most foodborne illnesses.

All the rules regarding food safety and hygiene still apply. It is more important than ever that these practices are maintained to reduce the risk.

Good practices include:

  • regularly washing and thoroughly drying hands

  • using clean utensils to handle cooked and ready-to-eat foods, and not touching the food directly

  • not coughing or sneezing over food

  • avoiding touching your nose, mouth and hair when preparing or serving food

  • keeping people who are coughing and sneezing away from food.

  • avoiding close contact, when possible, with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

The rules for hand washing don’t change – food handlers need to wash hands (even if they have no disease symptoms):

  • when starting work

  • before preparing or handling cooked or ready-to-eat food

  • after handling or preparing raw food

  • after handling waste food or rubbish

  • after cleaning duties

  • after using the toilet

  • after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing

  • after eating, drinking, or smoking

  • after handling money

  • after touching items/furniture/fittings

Good hygiene and cleaning will also prevent cross-contamination between raw or undercooked foods and cooked or ready-to-eat foods in the kitchen or service area. It is important that food handlers inform their employer, avoid preparing food for other people, and seek medical advice if they think they have symptoms of respiratory illness.

Extra measures food manufacturers can take to protect their staff from illness

Where businesses want to take extra measures to protect their staff and customers, they should do so in line with Ministry of Health (MOH) advice on social/physical distancing and limiting the spread of the virus.

This includes ensuring staff wear face masks, communicating staff sickness policies to employees, and ensuring staff hygiene, cleaning and sanitation processes continue on the factory floor.

Ensure all contractors, visitors, delivery drivers coming into your plant follow MOH guidelines.

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