News article

Coronavirus: How to manage social distancing in food businesses

22 May 2020


The Food Standards Agency has published guidance for managing social distancing in specific food business settings

Social distancing measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak apply to everyone. You need to minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals. This advice applies to both inside the food business and in the external public areas where customers may need to queue. People should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds and more frequently than normal.

The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances. This may be best evaluated by the store manager, however, a few general indicators may be relevant to the majority of retail outlets:

  • use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the shop if they have symptoms
  • regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
  • use floor markings inside the commercial spaces to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as serving counters and tills
  • use vertical signage to direct customers into lanes if feasible to facilitate movement within the premises while maintaining 2-metre distance
  • make regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly
  • place plexiglass barriers at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers
  • encourage the use of contactless payments where possible, without disadvantaging older or vulnerable customers
  • provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser

Further information on social distancing and adults who are at increased risk of coronavirus can be found on GOV.UK.

Maintaining social distancing in specific food business settings

Food processing plants
Food safety practices in food processing plants should continue to be delivered to the highest hygiene standards including the use of some personal protective equipment and frequent hand washing.

All employers are expected to follow social distancing guidance, including food businesses, as far as is reasonably possible. Where the production environment makes it difficult to do so, employers should consider what measures may be put in place to protect employees. Once staff have left the food processing areas and removed protective clothing, social distancing and further handwashing guidance should be adhered to.

Supermarkets
Supermarkets need to avoid crowding and create adequate spacing between individuals.

Effective measures to support this will vary by store and location but could include:

  • monitoring the number of customers within a store and limiting access to avoid congestion
  • implementing queue management systems to limit crowds gathering at entrances and maintain the 2 metres distance
  • reminding customers to only buy what they need

You should consider measures to allow safe privileged access to elderly and essential workers such as NHS and Social Care staff.

Staff canteens and rest areas
It is very unlikely that coronavirus is transmitted through food. Workplace canteens may remain open where there are no practical alternatives for staff to obtain food.

  • as far as reasonably possible, a distance of 2 metres should be maintained between users
  • staff can continue to use rest areas if they apply the same social distancing
  • notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be placed visibly in these areas
  • if possible, increase the number of handwashing stations available

Takeaways and restaurants offering a pick-up service
Customers should be encouraged to order online, by app, or by phone.

Customers waiting to order or collect should wait in a designated area where a 2-metre distance from other people can be maintained. If this is not possible, customers should enter the premises one at a time and only when their order is ready to be made or collected.

Collection times should be staggered to discourage crowding outside the premises. Where queuing is taking place, you should use queue management systems to maintain a 2-metre distance between people.

See an easy to use checklist for restaurants and takeaways planning to reopen.

Outdoor food markets/farmers markets
The main concern with outdoor food markets is to avoid crowds gathering. Local Authorities may have decided to close such markets as part of actions taken to maintain social distancing.

Where markets are still in operation, we encourage food market operators to consider how they can safely sell their products without encouraging crowds and ensure hygiene measures are in place. This can be done by:

  • taking orders online or by telephone in advance and pre-packing orders to limit face-to-face time in the market
  • considering delivery services if possible

More coronavirus guidance for food businesses
The FSA has published guidance on good hygiene practice, management of employee sickness during the coronavirus outbreak.


First published 26 March 2020