Coronavirus food safety guidance

Many food businesses are looking to diversify their operation and move into the takeaway market. If this applies to you, we have produced some guidance to help you consider additional food safety measures that you may need to put in place. Please also see the government covid-19 guidance for businesses  for further information.

Re-opening your business

From the 17 of May there have been further easements of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions as part of step 3 of the government's plan to return life to as near normal as we can.

All businesses and venues can reopen from 17 of May, except for the following which remain closed in law:

  • nightclubs
  • hostess bars
  • sexual entertainment venues

You can also find guidance about re-opening your business on the Food Standards Agency website.

Information for your business or venue

Further information on the following businesses or venues is available on the government's work and financial support during coronavirus  portal. 

Business or venueDescriptionGuidance for re-opening safely
Food and drinkOutdoor and indoor areas at hospitality venues may reopen.Indoor hospitality may now open, when adequate social distancing is practiced. The 50% rule applied to outdoor shelters remains. Shelters with less than 50% of their walling open may now be used, but should be classed as indoors and follow the guidance accordingly. At any premises serving alcohol, customers are required to order, be served and eat/drink whilst seated ('Table Service'). If it's not possible to take payment outdoors, for example due to a technical issue, you can take payment indoors as a last resort.  Further guidance can be found here.
AccommodationAll holiday accommodation may reopen

Groups of up to 6 or 2 households (each household can include a support bubble) can now stay in all holiday accommodations (including hotels and B&Bs).

Non-residential institutionsPlaces of worshipPlaces of worship may open for individual and communal worship with adequate social distancing based on the size of venue. Further guidance  Can be found on the government website.
 Community centres and LibrariesCommunity centres may open with adequate social distancing based on the size of venue. Further guidance Can be found on the government website.  
Personal care and close contact servicesHair salons and barbers, nail salons, body and skin piercing services, tattoo studios, spas and massage centres (except for steam rooms and saunas), holistic therapy (including acupuncture, homeopathy, and reflexology) and tanning salons may reopen.
  • Wear a visor and mask. Practitioners are advised to wear both a clear visor or goggles and a  Type II face mask  to keep their clients safe.
  • Keep clients apart. Consider how many people can be in the space while remaining socially distant. Rearrange waiting areas so that clients can stay apart. Use floor markings to manage queues.
  • Help your staff maintain social distancing. Consider using barriers between workstations, introduce back-to-back or side-to-side working, and have staff work in the same team each day.
  • Provide adequate ventilation. This means supplying fresh air to enclosed spaces where people are present. It can be natural ventilation through windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both. read the  HSE advice on air conditioning and ventilation.
Indoor sports and leisure

Gyms and leisure centres, sports courts, swimming pools, dance studios and fitness centres, driving and shooting ranges, riding arenas, archery venues and climbing wall centres may reopen.

Indoor sports and leisure facilities are permitted to reopen for individual exercise with your household or support bubble. Further guidance Can be found on the government website.
Outdoor sports and leisureAdventure parks, animal attractions (such as at zoos, safari parks and aquariums), drive in events, such as for cinemas, theatres, and other performances, film studios, funfairs and fairgrounds, model villages, museums and galleries, skating rinks, theme parks, water and aqua parks may reopen.

Outdoor sports and leisure has now reopened when social distancing can be incorporated. For more guidance on performing arts - Please see the government website

For more guidance on outdoor sports Please see the government website.

Risk of Legionella

When buildings reopen after lockdown, it is essential that water systems are not put back into use without considering the risks of Legionnaires' disease. There is an increased risk of waterborne pathogens such as Legionella bacteria being present as a consequence of the conditions that lockdown may have created.

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there is the potential for an increased number of people to be susceptible to Legionnaires' disease due to a compromised respiratory system during or after infection with COVID-19. Before re-opening your business you must consider this risk and what controls you need to put in place.

You can find guidance about legionella and reopening safely on the CIEH website resources page , as well as Guidance for organisations on supplying safe water supplies for .

Advice for those offering a take away or delivery service

Scientific advice is that it is very unlikely that COVID-19 can be spread through food. If you are changing how you operate, then you should review the additional hazards that you could face and make sure that you have the correct control measures in place.

Food safety 

If registered, businesses do not need to inform us of the change. However, you need to make sure that additional hazards are considered. It is also important that you check the planning guidance as your new service could mean a change of use.

Food must be delivered to consumers in a way that makes sure that it is safe and fit to eat. Foods that need refrigerating must be kept cool while they are being transported and hot food kept hot and ideally delivered within 2 hours.

Food may need to be packed in an insulated box or in a cool bag that can be kept clean and disinfected. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have provided  businesses with distance selling mail order and delivery advice .

You must also ensure you provide advice to the consumer, preferably labelling each product relating to: 

  • shelf life - provide a use by date so that the consumer knows how long they can safely keep the food, we would suggest maximum of 3 days.
  • storage and cooking instructions.


Allergens also need to be considered if food is sold at a distance (e.g. internet sales or home delivery.) The allergen information must be provided:

  • before the purchase of the food is complete (this could be in writing or verbally).
  • in a written format when the food is delivered.

Infection control

You have a responsibility to make sure that food handlers are fit for work under the food hygiene regulations. In addition, you have a general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of anyone in your employment and members of the public. Relevant staff must be provided with clear instructions on any infection control policy in place. The government has issued guidance on COVID-19 for employees and businesses .

This guidance is not specific for food businesses, but it does advise people that if they have been asked to self-isolate, then they should order your food by phone or online. They need to make sure you tell the delivery driver that the items are to be left outside, or as appropriate, at their home.

Further guidance by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health can be found on their  CIEH new food delivery and takeaway COVID-19 webpage.

Planning restrictions on providing takeaway foods temporarily lifted

Food businesses that wish to offer takeaway foods have had their planning restrictions temporarily lifted. As from 10am on 25 March 2020 'The town and country planning (general permitted development) (England) (Amendment) order 2020 (SI 2020 NO.330)' came into force.

This introduces a permitted development right called 'Class DA', which allows restaurants, cafés, and drinking establishments to provide takeaway food  without needing to apply for planning permission to do so. Although the restrictions were initially lifted for a period of one year, the rights have now been further extended until March 2022. For the purposes of Class DA, "provision of takeaway food" includes hot food takeaways (which currently fall under Class A5) and the provision of hot or cold food for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers away from the premises.

To benefit from this, businesses must notify their local planning authority that their building/land is being used or will be used for the provision of takeaway food at any time during the above period. This change of use to the provision of takeaway food will not affect the use class the building/land had before this change. As such, businesses making use of this right must revert back to their previous lawful use at the end of this period, or, if earlier, when they cease to provide takeaway food under Class DA.

Please notify the planning department by email if you wish to operate as a takeaway:


Important changes to food labelling regulations

The Food Standards Agency have published a leaflet detailing the  introduction to allergen labelling changes for Pre-Packed for Direct Sales (PPDS) . This is food which is packed in advance on the same premises from which it is sold. Labelling requirements for PPDS foods will change from 1 October 2021

All PPDS foods will need to be labelled with a full ingredients list, including allergens. The leaflet lists the new labelling requirements for PPDS food and outlines how these will affect businesses and what steps they need to take to comply.

The FSA offer online training courses for businesses .  This training is free and certificated. We would encourage all businesses to undertake their allergen and labelling training courses.

If you require any further advice please contact West Sussex Trading Standards  



E.coli Guidance

The Food Standards Agency has recently issued guidance for food businesses on how to control the risks associated with E.coli O157. E.coli O157 is a bacteria found in the environment predominantly on raw meat and in the soil which can cause serious illness and even death. It can cause infections when only a few of the organisms are ingested.

If you would like to discuss how to implement this guidance in your business, please contact us. For businesses who use vacuum packing machines, there is a Vacuum Packing 'safe method' on our Safer Food, Better Business web page. Businesses must have controls in place to ensure raw and ready to eat foods are adequately separated. It is now no longer acceptable to allow dual use of 'complex equipment' such as vacuum packers and meat slicers.


Foreign objects in food

The Health Protection Team will investigate foreign objects in food which are a health risk. Please use the link below to find out what further action you should take.


Food safety at home


Everyone has an expectation that the food we buy from shops is safe to eat, but we can also help ourselves by keeping food safe at home.

Tips for Buying Food

  • Always check use by and best before dates before buying - go to our 'Use by' and 'Best Before' Date' page for more information.
  • Check that the package isn't damaged.
  • Always ensure that raw meat or poultry is completely wrapped.
  • Keep raw and ready to eat foods separate when packing the shopping bag.

Tips for Keeping Food Safe at Home

  • Always ensure that chilled and frozen food is taken straight home after purchase and put into the fridge or freezer immediately - one bacterium can turn into one million in less than seven hours at warm temperatures.
  • Always store cooked and raw foods separately.  Make sure that raw meat and poultry are stored in the bottom of the fridge.
  • Keep the coldest part of the fridge at 0-5ºc.
  • Keep eggs in the fridge.
  • Check use by dates, don't keep food beyond that date.
  • Keep pets away from food dishes and work tops.
  • Always wash hands before preparing food, after going to the toilet and after stroking or playing with pets.
  • Make sure that food is cooked completely all the way through.  If heating a ready meal read and follow all instructions.
  • If you do reheat food, it must be piping hot all the way through.
  • Frozen poultry should always be thoroughly defrosted before cooking.  Poultry is fully defrosted when completely pliable and there are no ice crystals on or in the body cavity.

Looking after your fridge and freezer

In order to keep chilled and frozen foods in good condition, it is important to observe these simple precautions as these type of food are perishable:

  • Fridges should run between 2ºc to 5ºc. Freezers should run at -18ºc, use a thermometer and regularly check temperatures.
  • Ensure fridge and freezer are kept clean.  Use warm water and a mild detergent inside and out.
  • Sanitise door handles regularly.
  • Keep frozen food covered to prevent contamination and drying out.
  • Ensure that the juices from raw meats do not drip onto any other foods.
  • Store raw meats and poultry in leak proof containers at the bottom of the fridge.

High Risk Foods

  • Dairy Products - milk, cream, cheese e.g. soft cheese, stilton.  Dairy based products like fromage frais or mousses.
  • Cooked products - those foods containing eggs, meat, fish or dairy.
  • Sliced/cured meats - like ham and smoked fish.
  • Prepared ready to eat foods - such as vegetable salads or products containing mayonnaise.

Always ensure these foods are kept refrigerated.


Infectious diseases and food borne illness

When people suffer sickness and diarrhoea they often suspect they are suffering from food poisoning. In fact these symptoms can also result from viral infections, which may be present in the air, or some other cause, and may not be food related. Please contact us to report such illnesses or make a complaint about a food premises that you think might be linked to your illness. You should always contact your Doctor for medical advice if you feel you need this.

It is important to inform your Doctor or Environmental Health Officer if you:

  • Are a food handler whose work is connected with the preparation or handling of food and drink.
  • Are a health care or nursery member of staff or other staff who has direct contact or contact through serving food, with highly susceptible patients or person to whom food poisoning would have particularly serious consequences.

Very often, people suffering from suspected food poisoning feel sure that the cause is the last meal they have eaten, especially if this happens to be a meal at a restaurant or takeaway. Often though food poisoning bacteria take quite a long time before they actually make us ill, on average 1-2 days or more after we have eaten them. Sometimes it can take up to 11 days before you show any signs of illness.

The symptoms of food poisoning can vary but generally include some or all the following:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting (sickness)
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pains

What are the main causes of food poisoning and food borne illnesses?

  • Food prepared too far in advance and then kept at room temperature
    Food poisoning bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature. Any food which has been prepared in advance must be refrigerated in order to slow bacterial growth.
  • Undercooking
    This may be dangerous as any harmful bacteria in the food will not be destroyed.
  • Not reheating food to high enough temperatures
    Reheated foods are those that have been previously cooked, allowed to cool and then reheated before they are eaten. Some bacteria can survive the cooking process and will grow if the food isn't cooled quickly. Try not to reheat leftovers if possible.
  • Cross contamination from raw food and ready to eat food
    Food poisoning bacteria may be naturally present in raw food, especially raw meat and poultry. If these bacteria are allowed to get onto food that is not going to be cooked before it is eaten and is 'ready to eat'  food poisoning can result. Cross contamination can result from poor storage whereby the juices from raw meat are allowed to drip on to cooked food and in other ways such as a chopping board, work surface, dirty dishcloths or food handlers hands.
  • Failure to keep hot food above 63 degrees
    Holding food at a hot temperature ensures that harmful bacteria will not grow.
  • Poor personal hygiene and infected food handlers
    Poor personal hygiene can result in food becoming contaminated with bacteria. Additionally, persons suffering from infections such as food poisoning and septic cuts can contaminate the food. It is important to remember that anyone who has been in contact with someone suffering from food poisoning can pass on bacteria, even though they show no symptoms themselves.


Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) packs

Since 1 January 2006, all food businesses must have a fully documented food safety management system. This means that you have to decide what it is that you do to produce food that is safe, and have this written down. What's more, your system will have to be based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles; and you will be expected to follow it.

Whilst larger businesses will have these systems in place, many smaller businesses won't. That is why the Food Standards Agency have produced Safer Food Better Business (SFBB). There are three types of packs, one for caterers, one for retailers and one for childminders. The caterer type comes in four versions, standard cuisine, Indian cuisine, Chinese cuisine in English and Chinese cuisine in Chinese. The SFBB pack contains a series of easy to understand safe methods for cooking, chilling, cleaning, cross contamination and management.

It is designed to be easily tailored to your business and can be implemented in a relatively short period of time. You can order any of the SFBB packs or diary refill from us, printed and bound, for the following prices (including postage and package) at the link below.

SFBB pack order form

Alternatively they are available on the Food Standards Agency - Safer food, better business website to download for free.

  • SFBB pack for caterers £10
  • SFBB pack for retailers £10
  • SFBB pack for childminders £10
  • SFBB residential care home supplement £5
  • SFBB for Indian cuisine £10
  • SFBB for Chinese cuisine £10
  • SFBB in Chinese £10
  • SFBB Diary refill £10

Changes to SFBB Caterers pack 2015

Bed and breakfast packs

Chichester District Council have now added another pack based on the food standard agency's SFBB pack designed for Bed and Breakfast premises.

How does this pack help me comply with the law?

Regulations introduced in January 2006 say that you must be able to show what you do to sell food that is safe to eat and have this written down. This pack helps you do this. This pack is based on the principles of HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point), but you will not find words such as HACCP or HAZARD in this pack because we have cut all the jargon.

Who should take charge of the pack?

The person who is responsible for the day-today running of the business is the best person to work through the pack.  It is a good idea to involve other staff to help the pack work in your business.

Vacuum packing safe method

Food businesses that carry out Vacuum Packing must have documented procedures for dealing with the vacuum packing process, there is now a Vacuum Packing safe method to help implement the necessary controls for the safe use of this process.

Businesses must have controls in place to ensure raw and ready to eat foods are adequately separated. Since the implementation of the Food Standards Agency, E.coli 0157 Control of cross-contamination .

Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) coaching sessions

If you have any difficulty with completing and implementing the SFBB pack Chichester District Council are running 2 hour coaching sessions to help businesses understand what is required and how it should be used. Sessions are arranged as and when they are required at a location convenient to you and are charged at £20.00 per head. If you would like more information or would like to attend please contact us.

It should be remembered that having a Food Safety Management System that is adequate and fully implemented is a legal requirement and will also have an impact on the score achieved for the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

Sign up to our Foodbite newsletter