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COVID-19 advice for food business general health and hygiene

The best ways to prevent the community spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are for everyone to maintain effective hygiene and follow social distancing rules.

The Food Standards Code requires food businesses to take all practicable steps to prevent contamination of their food service or processing environment.

Effective hygiene

Maintaining effective hygiene includes:

  • regular handwashing
  • cleaning and sanitising facilities and equipment
  • maintaining strict requirements around worker health and hygiene
  • implementing social distancing.

Cleaning and sanitising

You must ensure you're cleaning and sanitising the following, regardless of COVID-19:

  • all eating and drinking utensils
  • all food contact surfaces.

We advise you to review your cleaning and sanitising practices to ensure general surfaces are also cleaned frequently and effectively. These include:

  • door handles
  • refrigerator handles
  • tap handles
  • switches
  • glass touchscreens such as food self-order screens and self-serve checkouts
  • other high-touch areas.

Check if you're covering the Australian Government Guidelines for routine environmental cleaning on the Department of Health website. You should add anything to your standard procedures for cleaning and disinfection of your business premises if necessary.

Cleaning and disinfection following a case or suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace

In the event of COVID-19 exposure, a more thorough and extensive cleaning and sanitising regime may be required. 

For guidance see cleaning and sanitising for food businesses in response to COVID-19 exposure (771 KB).

Employee health and hygiene

Food handlers must take all practicable measures to prevent contamination of the food service or processing environment. They must maintain good personal hygiene including regular handwashing.

Employees showing symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend work. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, and shortness of breath. We recommend you review the health of all employees daily.

Food handlers who know or suspect they are unwell with COVID-19 or other illness must report this to their supervisor.

You must exclude unwell food handlers from food handling activities or from the workplace entirely. This exclusion must be until they are professionally deemed safe to return to work, with guidance from health authorities.

Tips to prevent transmitting the virus 

Normal best-practice prevention measures will reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19, and foodborne diseases like norovirus and salmonellosis:

  • maintain good personal hygiene, especially handwashing
  • keep equipment and surfaces clean and sanitised
  • exclude ill workers
  • take other recommended measures such as social distancing.

In many businesses, particularly food manufacturers, staff routinely wear personal protective equipment such as protective clothing and gloves. With correct use these can help prevent transmission of infectious diseases.

Everyone in the community has an obligation to stay home while they have any symptoms such as fever or coughing. Businesses have the right to refuse service and insist that anyone with these symptoms leaves the premises.

Reusable cups

Food businesses are responsible for the measures they put in place to ensure food is safe and suitable, including food packaging. There is nothing in the Food Standards Code that specifically covers consumers bringing in their own reusable cups.

It is up to the business if they accept reusable cups. Businesses should have a policy around how they accept reusable cups and cleaning and sanitising arrangements when accepting them. Businesses are under no obligation to accept dirty cups.

Personal and equipment hygiene must be maintained at all times.

In response to COVID-19 local food enforcement agencies may have their own requirements or advice. 

Further information

Read our InfoBites factsheets for further information on routine health and hygiene requirements, and cleaning and sanitising.

Information on a wide range of topics relevant to all businesses can be found on the Safe Work Australia website.

Page last updated 6 December 2023