Food businesses during COVID-19

The Victorian Government eased COVID-19 restrictions on 1 June 2020 to allow restaurants, cafes and pubs to open and serve meals via table service for up to 20 customers per space.

Read Business Victoria’s Hospitality Industry guidelines for coronavirus (COVID-19) for information to help cafes, restaurants and other food and beverage establishments to resume serving meals via table service for up to 20 customers.

Complete a short free online training course to help your business resume operations safely.

See the Business Victoria website to download checklists, fact sheets, signage and posters to help your business safely reopen.

Understanding Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for food businesses

If basic food handling practices and hygiene are followed transmission through food is unlikely and there is no evidence of this occurring with COVID-19. Current food safety and food handling information and standards are relevant and protective.

How is the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?

Human coronaviruses (such as novel coronavirus - COVID-19) are spread through contaminated droplets from an infected person coming into contact with others.  The droplets are spread by coughing or sneezing, or by coming into contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

How can be prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

There are simple actions you can take to prevent the spread, such as:

  • regular hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • practice cough and sneezing etiquette by covering your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow
  • avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
  • practice social-distancing be keeping 1.5m apart from others at all times

Can COVID-19 be spread by foodborne transmission?

If basic food handling practices and hygiene are followed transmission through food is unlikely and there is no evidence of this occurring with novel coronavirus COVID-19.

However, investigations into how the virus spreads are still continuing.

How long does the coronavirus COVID-19 survive on surfaces?

While it appears to behave like other coronaviruses, it has not been confirmed how long the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces.

Preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus suggests it may remain on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions such as the type of surface, or the temperature or humidity of the environment.

If you think a surface may be contaminated, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with soap and warm running water and dry them with a single use paper towel. Alternatively, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

At all times, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Can the coronavirus survive on crockery and cutlery?

While we are still finding out about the characteristics of the novel coronavirus, we do know quite a lot about other coronaviruses.

Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses. The envelope surrounding the virus is relatively delicate making the virus susceptible to degradation in the environment. The delicate nature of the viral envelope means coronaviruses are relatively sensitive to heat and detergents (including soap). If the envelope surrounding the virus is damaged, the virus loses its ability to infect a cell.  

For this reason, normal washing of dishes in hot water (or better still, in a dishwasher) using detergent is likely to completely inactivate any coronavirus.

What should a food business do to protect against coronavirus?

Current food safety and food handling information and standards are relevant and protective.

Visit the DoFoodSafely website for up-to-date food safety and food handling information.

To ensure good food handling hygiene a food handler should wash their hands:

  • before starting work
  • before handling cooked or ready-to-eat food
  • after handling or preparing raw food
  • after handling waste
  • after cleaning duties
  • after using the toilet
  • after blowing nose, sneezing or coughing
  • after eating drinking or smoking
  • after handling money

For more information on practices within your food business visit the Food Standards website.

Takeaway and/or home delivery services

If you run a restaurant, café or catering business and want to provide takeaway and/or home delivery services, some changes to your procedures may apply.

For more information or advice email our Environmental Health team.

As a precaution, if you have symptoms of a respiratory illness (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) or have been in contact with someone displaying symptoms, you should avoid preparing food for other people and seek medical advice.

If you suspect you may have COVID-19, call the dedicated Department of Health and Human Services hotline 1800 675 398.