Navigating COVID-19: Food Safety

Published November 17, 2020

Partner Resources

Health & Food Safety

Canadian Food Safety Group

Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS)

  • Gain awareness on Coronavirus “COVID – 19” and learn about simple steps you can take to stay healthy; prevent the spread of the virus and keep your workers and your business safe in this quick 30-minute eCourse.

Frequently Asked Questions

If an employee has been exposed to COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19 and has touched food in the restaurant, what food handling best practices are recommended?

Food that has been touched by someone infected with COVID-19 should be disposed of. When cleaning the restaurant and disposing of food, ensure that you are practicing proper hand hygiene, using PPE as needed (gloves or mask) and properly cleaning contaminated surfaces (common and high-frequency touch point surfaces).

For free Food Handler Personal Hygiene training from Restaurants Canada and Canada Food Safety, click here. It is available to both Restaurants Canada members and non–members

For more information on the proper cleaning procedures, please see our partner resources from Diversey.

Can food be donated to reduce waste?

If your restaurant has a COVID-19 positive or exposed employee, it is best not to donate any food. Any opened food (ready-to-eat, prepped or cooked) should not be donated.

If your restaurant, to the best of your knowledge, was not exposed to COVID-19, you may donate packaged, unopened food (it should be sanitized upon arrival by the donee with approved no-rinse sanitizer).

Is there any difference for food safety practices for different types of food (dry vs. frozen)?

Dry foods inside containers in the dry store should be safe. Outer surfaces of refrigerated and frozen food packaging/storage containers should be made safe.

Clean, disinfect and ensure food inside the container is not exposed to the chemicals in the enhanced cleaning protocol. Sanitize all outer surfaces on food packaging that were not handled by a COVID-19 positive/exposed individual with an approved no-rinse sanitizer.

See our Diversey partner resources on how to effectively clean surfaces and proper hand hygiene.

What are the food safety precautions for restaurants temporarily closing?

With a temporary closure that does not have a defined date for reopen, the following procedures are recommended:

  • Dispose of any open thawed/prepared/cooked/ready to eat foods immediately
  • Check expiration dates across dry, refrigerated and frozen food storage
  • Ensure all foods are covered, labelled and protected for the lockdown period
  • Ensure climate controls and the environment in the facility are food-safe (temperature, humidity, cleanliness, pest-proofing)
  • Temperature: 4°C or below in coolers, -18°C or below in freezers and 10-21°C in dry stores
  • Humidity: 55% or lower in dry storage areas
  • Maintain food-safe temperatures during a lockdown until operations restart

For more information on food safety when temporarily closing, see these downloadable resources from Canada Food Safety Group.

How can an operator ensure their third-party delivery driver is safe? What questions can an operator ask?

As an operator, asking the following questions are essential to ask a third-party delivery driver: do you have the correct bag? Have you had the proper training? Are you in good health or showing any symptoms?

Before asking the driver, however, you should ask the provider the following: what precautions are you taking with your drivers to ensure they are safely able to deliver food?

As an operator, you can also provide sanitizer/disinfectant for the interior of the delivery bag before putting food in the bag. If you’re unsure or have any doubt, refuse the delivery with the driver in question and contact the delivery provider. Delivery providers are reluctant to mandate contract delivery drivers due to legality issues, so you as the operator have the responsibility to ensure your product reaches the consumer safely

What are some of the easiest ways to provide tamper-proof packaging?

Tamper-proof packaging should utilize a label that is not easily peeled away and that has a high strength adhesive. Utilize tamper-proof containers, that is, one having indicators or barriers to entry which, if breached or missing, provides visible evidence to consumers that tampering has occurred.

It is also recommended to staple the bag and stamp the order once the delivery driver arrives to pick up the order. Lastly, ensure that delivery drivers have received the proper training and as an operator, you are reinforcing expectations of staff and delivery drivers.

If you are using a food/tabletop sanitizer provided by a known large cleaning company, is that a sufficient anti-viral product against COVID?

Health Canada now has a list of approved disinfectants against SARS-CoV-2 and this list is updated daily.

The requirements, in general, are to use a broad-spectrum virucide (able to kill a hard-to-kill non-enveloped virus) which would indicate it can kill Norovirus, Rhinovirus or Hepatitis A. Adenovirus and Rotavirus are easier to kill than non-enveloped viruses.

Should restaurants that are still open for takeout or otherwise, switch to only accepting credit cards, and say no to cash?

You can accept and give cash, as long as you don’t touch portals of entry (eyes, nose and mouth) with your hands. You should not touch any food products when you handle cash. The challenge is more so being within six feet of each other during the payment process, which is why you and the customer should not speak, as there are secretions when you talk.

The transmission of the virus is thought to be lower from touching a surface and your face versus having the particle in the air hitting your face from when you are talking to someone. We should not talk when standing close to someone.

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