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COVID-19 advice for take-away food, donated food and food delivery

Remember: all normal requirements for food businesses to produce safe food remain in place.

This advice can help food businesses doing home delivery and take-aways during COVID-19 restrictions. You must ensure you have the skills and knowledge to manage any food safety risks.

Know your food safety requirements

You must comply with all the food safety requirements that apply to your food operations. There are strict health and hygiene requirements to prevent food contamination. The Food Standards Code Standard 3.2.2 includes requirements for hygiene, food handling, temperature control and food transport.

If you're thinking of starting a business to produce food and deliver it, check if you need prior approvals to operate.

Your state or territory authorities have more information for food businesses. Read more about Food enforcement contacts and see who is responsible in your area.

Prevent the spread of COVID-19

Remember, the COVID-19 virus can spread from person to person. You can prevent infection with good hygiene procedures and social distancing.

Employers should provide information on procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their workplace. Make sure staff comply with social distancing and good hand hygiene practices. You should exclude staff who develop acute respiratory infection from the workplace. Read more about Information for work places on the Safe Work Australia website.

Social distancing and extra precautions are recommended for staff as well as your customers.

You should:

  • keep at least 1.5 meters from customers
  • avoid shaking hands or touching your face
  • place takeaway foods on a table or counter for the customer to collect - avoid passing food hand to hand.

Read more detailed guidelines at the Department of Health website.

Safe temperatures for food

Keeping food at the correct temperature will prevent any harmful bacteria from growing in it. Many cooked or refrigerated foods can become unsafe if they are left sitting at ambient temperatures for long periods. Temperatures between 5 and 60°C are the 'temperature danger zone' and should be avoided. Read more about potentially hazardous food in A Guide to the Food Safety Standards Appendix 1 (pdf 56.4 kb).

You must keep:

  • hot food at or above 60°C
  • cold food at or below 5°C
  • frozen foods frozen solid.


Using insulated bags or eskies to transport food will help maintain safe temperatures during delivery. Keep hot foods separate from cold foods.

If food is delivered to the customer straight away, it's likely there isn't enough time for harmful bacteria to grow to dangerous levels. If you can't guarantee quick delivery, take measures to ensure the food is kept at a safe temperature until the customer receives it.

Cooling or reheating

You must also cool and reheat food in line with food safety requirements. Especially if you produce large volumes of food. It's important to do it right and do it quickly. This keeps the food safe from harmful bacteria and toxins that can cause foodborne disease.

Read more about safe cooling and reheating food.

Food allergens

Some foods can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. It's important to provide information on potential allergens in your food. Common allergens that you must routinely declare are:

  • peanuts
  • fish
  • crustacea
  • egg
  • milk
  • sesame seeds
  • soybeans
  • lupin
  • tree nuts
  • gluten-containing cereals
  • added sulphites (concentrations of 10mg/kg or more).

Read more about allergen labelling.

Charities, groups and volunteers donating food

When giving away food, make sure that the food is safe to eat and you're complying with relevant legislation.

Before you get involved with giving away food, it's important to know the requirements of the Food Act in your state or territory. You may be required to get a licence.

Charities, groups or volunteers providing free food may be exempt from some or all legislation applying to food businesses. Where activities fall under the definition of 'sale of food', the Food Standards Code requirements will apply.

Check first with the authority responsible for food regulation in your area to know what applies to your situation. Read more about Food enforcement contacts.

In all cases, always follow good food safety practices when processing, handling and storing food to keep it safe. Remember:

  • be vigilant with hand washing and cleaning equipment and surfaces
  • don't handle food if you're unwell
  • make sure you keep the food at a safe temperature.

Other legislation may apply. For example, civil liability acts limit the liability of individuals and businesses that donate or distribute food, providing they meet certain food safety conditions. For example, the donor needs to ensure food is safe to eat when it leaves them. The donor should let the recipient know information they need to ensure the ongoing safety of the food. This can include food handling and time limits for safe consumption.

Check with the relevant authority responsible for food regulation in your state or territory. Read more about Food enforcement contacts.

Read more topics on COVID-19.

Page last updated 6 December 2023