Is my takeaway safe during the Covid-19 pandemic?

It’s the Easter weekend. With the Covid-19 pandemic closing pubs and restaurants many will turn to takeaways and food delivery services over the long weekend. Given the pandemic many of the public have concerns over whether their takeaway or delivery will be safe. Aside from the pandemic there are takeaway services with varying levels of Food Safety, throwing Covid-19 into the mix mean that many members of the public see a takeaway as an even bigger gamble.

There are a number of different types takeaways and delivery services. These include traditional takeaway businesses and restaurants offering a takeaway option. Some of these businesses have always offered a takeaway or delivery services – others have adopted their business as eating in is no longer an option. There are also variations in methods of delivery – some businesses offer the delivery service in-house employing and using their own staff, others utilise a third party delivery services such as Deliveroo or Uber Eats.

As a customer It is quite difficult to determine if a Food Business is following all current guidance around Covid-19. That said there are some things that can be checked to ensure that your order is more likely to be safe.

Food Hygiene Rating

A good indicator of the businesses commitment to protecting it’s customer’s safety and health is it’s Food Hygiene Rating. The business’ rating is issued by the local authority on it’s last routine Food Hygiene inspection. The inspection is highly likely to have been completed before the pandemic began, but is likely to be an indicator that the business has a Food Safety Management System in place and that it has a commitment to maintaining standards of Food Safety. All business’ Food Hygiene Ratings can be found on the Food Standards Agency’s website. Certain local authorities go even further making the full inspection report available, at present this is just the local authorities in Staffordshire. Reports can be found on the Rate My Place website. Businesses with a Food Hygiene Rating of 4 or 5 have a demonstrated at the time of the inspection that standards that are good or very good, 3 is compliant, 2 or below shows some improvement is requirement. A different system exists in Scotland known as the Food Hygiene Information Scheme – this simply has a Pass or Improvement Required.

Ordering

According to the latest government guidance Food Businesses should not be taking orders in person, they should only be taking food orders over the phone or online. This minimises the risk associated with Covid-19 – ensuring that social distancing guidance is adhered to. A simple way of ensuring that a business is following this guidance is following this guidance is simply to ask over the phone how you can order – if they say online or over the phone it appears they are at least following this element of the guidance, if they tell you that you can pop in to order it might be best to stay clear.

Collection

Where an order is to be collected, you should be able to see that the business has put in appropriate controls to minimise any risk of spreading infection. The business should provide you with a collection time – avoiding an unecessary clustering of people outside of the premises. There should also be controls outside to ensure that those waiting are managed appropriately – this could be as simple of marking on the floor.

While collecting you may be able to see into the kitchen area. You should be able to observe regular handwashing (ensuring hands are washed for 20 seconds, not just given a cursory rinse), staff maintaining social distancing and that staff are not displaying any signs of illness.

Delivery

Where an order is being delivered you will have less insight in to how the business is operating, but you should still be able to get an indication as to how well controlled the business is operating.

Guidance from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) states that before making a delivery the driver should sanitise their hands before making a delivery. This is an important point – simply wearing gloves is not enough – gloves can carry the virus. If gloves are worn a new pair should be put on after sanitising – the old gloves should not be reused. It should be noted that the use of gloves are optional – it could be argued that the use of gloves actually complicates the process, increasing the likelihood an error is made resulting in contamination.

The driver should place the food by the door notify you the delivery has arrived – either by ringing the bell or calling your phone. They should then move away from the door to at least 2 metres, ensuring social distancing is maintained.

What to do if you have concerns?

If you have concerns around the controls that are in place within a Food Business, you can report these to Environmental Health. A report can be made on the Food Standards Agency website. Alternatively it can be reported directly to your local authority. You can find contact details of your local authority via their website, if you are unsure of your local authority you can find it by entering your postcode at this link on the GOV.UK website.

Summary

In conclusion, it is impossible to fully observe that all controls are in place when ordering food, however it will be possible to gain an indication that key controls are being implemented. It is recommended that the business’ Food Hygiene Rating is checked, then observe the food business is implementing the following:

  • Orders are only accepted over the phone or online – not in person;
  • For collection; the business provides a designated collection time;
  • For collection; measures are observed to be in place to maintain social distancing outside the premises;
  • For collection; good handwashing, social distancing and no illness is observed among staff working;
  • For delivery; hands are observed being sanitised before making the delivery;
  • For delivery; social distancing is observed being maintained when the delivery is made.

Guidance for Food Businesses

If you are a Food Businesses looking for guidance on how to safely operate your business during the Covid-19 pandemic there are a couple of sources of guidance:

Featured image by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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