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Food businesses

Information for grocery stores, restaurants and other food premises for employers and workers.

Last updated: February 5, 2021

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For more information, see a PDF of the information on this page containing additional information and answers to common questions.

Prevention measures for all food businesses

All food businesses are required to follow:

  • Daily health checks of employees must be performed, employees must not work if they did not pass or properly perform the daily health check.
  • Employers must encourage workers to work from home if that is possible, and provide supports for this.
  • Provide messaging to customers to not shop or dine and stay home if sick (cold, flu, COVID-19 symptoms).
  • Support your employees to stay home if they are sick.
 
  • Ensure customers can maintain physical distancing of 2 metres space in line ups, including while waiting for washrooms.
  • Determine the maximum number of customers who can be accommodated in your premises and document this in your COVID-19 safety plan.
  • Monitor and control the number of people in the premises.
  • Prevent customers and employees from congregating at the workplace. Implement employee and customer health screening. Anyone who is ill should go home and not enter the store, restaurant, pub, café or premises.

We recommend all operators review their sanitation procedures and increase their sanitation frequency, especially for high touch surfaces and public areas.

 

Surfaces must be cleaned on a regular basis with an approved detergent. Cleaning removes physical contaminants or dirt on the surface. This is followed by rinsing with clean, potable water. Cleaned surfaces must then be sanitized (food contact surfaces) or disinfected (non food contact surfaces). Review with your staff how to use and verify the concentration of sanitizers and disinfectants used in your food premises.


Disinfectants and Sanitizers: how they are different

Disinfectants are different from sanitizers in that they have a greater ability to destroy bacteria, viruses and molds. Disinfectants are used at a higher concentration and require a longer contact time than sanitizers. If a food grade disinfectant is used on a food contact surface, it may need to be rinsed off with potable water.

Caution: Operators must confirm that sanitizers or disinfectants are appropriate for use against COVID-19 and for food premises use with their chemical suppliers. Some disinfectants can be toxic and are unsuitable for food premises or food contact surfaces.  Approved disinfectants:

Canadian Drug and Health Products list of registered Sanitizers and Disinfectants.  Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 | US EPA (List N)


In Canada, disinfectants must have a DIN (drug identification number). Some disinfectant/sanitizer products are the same chemical. It can be used as a disinfectant when used at a higher concentration and longer contact time or as a sanitizer when used at a lower concentration and shorter contact time. For example, “bleach” is considered a disinfectant when used at 1000 to 5000 ppm with a 10 minute contact time, but is considered a sanitizer when used at 100 to 200 ppm with a 2 minute contact time. To prepare a bleach solution consult the FOODSAFE online bleach calculator.


Food grade sanitizers are used after cleaning to reduce the level of bacteria to a safe level when following the manufacturer’s instruction for concentration and contact time. Sanitizers are used on food contact surfaces. When sanitizers are used at the no-rinse concentration level it does not need to be rinsed off with clean potable water.


 
  • Ensure food service and food prep areas are cleaned and sanitized according to the product manufacturer’s instructions after each customer service, staff shift changes, and before and after closing.
  • Have dedicated staff for cleaning and sanitizing the service area.
 
  • Review and enhance your premise’s sanitation plan and schedule. 
  • Do not use disinfectants in food service and food prep areas. For more information on cleaning and disinfecting non-food areas (e.g. washrooms) and the differences between disinfectants and sanitizers see the Cleaning and Disinfecting page
  • Regularly clean and disinfect point of sale devices and equipment for handling payments, washrooms, and other common touch points. 
  • Perform more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of shared areas.
  • Employees should practice good hand hygiene including frequent hand washing, as well as coughing or sneezing into your elbow rather than hands.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand rubs in the food premise for patrons.
  • Ensure washrooms are stocked with liquid soap and paper towels at all times, and that warm running water is available.
  • Masks must be worn by both customers and employees in restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars or other businesses where food is sold except while eating or drinking or sitting at a table. Masks must be worn by employees in all indoor and outdoor areas, including break areas, except during eating or drinking.
  • Exemptions apply for children under 12 years of age, people cannot put on or remove a mask on their own, those with health conditions including psychological and behavioural conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask, and for those who have to remove a mask to communicate. 
  • Mandatory masking and handling customers who refuse to wear masks: see the Employers and Business page (retail).
  • Place hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette signs within areas in the food premise (for example, use this Hand Hygiene poster).
  • Place signage on front doors that tell customers not to enter the premises if they are feeling ill. Poster
  • Place signage at entrances requiring customers to wear masks. 
  • Place signage in employee areas about COVID measures in place.‎ Poster
While there is no documented spread of COVID-19 through food, there is a theoretical risk that a person infected with COVID-19 could spread the virus when touching shared equipment and utensils. 

To limit customer hand-contact with bulk foods, we recommend that: 

  • Staff continue to dispense bulk items from behind counters (e.g., fish counters, bakery counters).
  • Customers have access to prepackaged servings of bulk foods (e.g., muffins or bulk raisins).
  • Staff continue to pour soda, coffee and other beverages for customers. Consider switching or substituting pre-packaged (canned or bottled) beverages.
  • Adequate tools are available to safely dispense bulk items (tongs, single use tissues, etc.)

Premises that choose to allow self-dispensed foods and non-alcoholic beverages must:

  • Provide hand washing or hand sanitizing near the station
  • Post signs about hand hygiene and physical distancing measures
  • Implement a frequent cleaning and sanitizing of the station and utensils used at the station 
  • Take necessary steps to avoid congregation.
  • Premises must document store policy for accepting reusable containers such as grocery bags, coffee mugs, and customer owned food containers in the COVID-19 safety plan. Use the plan to inform customers of this policy.
  • Increase the cleaning and sanitizing at high touch areas.
  • Staff should wash their hands after handling reusable items received from customers

Reusable grocery bags

  • Employees (cashiers) packaging foods may choose not to handle customer reusable grocery bags.  Stores may have a policy prohibiting use of reusable bags. BCCDC and the health authorities respect the right of retail stores to make policy that works for them and their employees.
  • ‎If reusable bags are accepted at a retail store, then customers may be asked to pack the bags themselves. If employees handle or pack groceries into reusable bags they are expected to practice frequent hand washing as described in this poster, hand hygiene. Employees are reminded that gloves are not a replacement for good and frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing.

Reusable beverage containers

Self-service by a customer of a beverage into their own cup is different from handing a customers' cup to an employee to fill for them. 

  • When customers fill their own beverage cups, there is no risk to the employee. Customers should be only using reusable containers that have been properly cleaned and sanitized. 
  • Reusable beverage cups that employees handle on behalf of customers may be accepted, depending on store policy. Employees are advised to practice frequent hand washing after handling reusable beverage containers. 

Take-away containers

  • Premises such as restaurants should provide single use containers for take-away foods. Premises that allow customers to pack their own leftovers into single use containers provided by the premises should consider physical distancing and hygienic measures to allow this activity to be safely conducted.
  • Customers should not use their own containers for take-away food.



Grocery stores

Retail grocery stores should consult the Worksafe BC protocols for retail operation and follow the PHO orders for retail businesses under section L of the Gathering and Events order.

  • Follow physical distancing requirements as described below on this page that limit capacity (five square metres of space for patrons and staff); document this number in the COVID-19 safety plan and ensure these numbers are not exceeded,
  • In premises with less than five square meters of space, a maximum of one patron may enter and this number must be documented in the COVID-19 safety plan,
  • Persons that cannot be safely accommodated, if advised by the owner or staff, must not enter and should leave if requested,
  • Where practical provide signs and barriers to allow two metre distance between customers and to avoid congregation of patrons,
  • Provide hand sanitation.
Retail grocery stores should consult the Worksafe BC protocols for retail operation and follow the PHO orders for retail businesses under section L of the Gathering and Events order.

  • Follow physical distancing requirements as described below on this page that limit capacity (five square metres of space for patrons and staff); document this number in the COVID-19 safety plan and ensure these numbers are not exceeded,
  • In premises with less than five square meters of space, a maximum of one patron may enter and this number must be documented in the COVID-19 safety plan,
  • Persons that cannot be safely accommodated, if advised by the owner or staff, must not enter and should leave if requested,
  • Where practical provide signs and barriers to allow two metre distance between customers and to avoid congregation of patrons,
  • Provide hand sanitation.
Food sampling is not recommended if customers are not able to maintain physical distancing.
  • Do not allow customers to congregate near food sampling stations. Mark the area around the station to allow for a 2 metre separation between customers and from the sampling host. 
  • Use signs and instructions to inform customers to wait in line to get a sample and not crowd the sampling station. 
  • Sampling hosts should be protected from customers by means of a barrier, mask or some other method to maintain physical distance while offering samples to guests.  
  • Sampling stations need to be stocked with supplies to maintain sanitation and proper hand hygiene for the host.
  • Staff must not fill a customer’s returned container, customers should fill their own containers. 
  • Signage must be available to describe requirements for physical distancing during water bottling and indicate that hygienic practices are required during dispensing of water at these sites. 
  • Hand sanitizer and/or disinfectants wipes and a refuse container must be available for customers. Customers must be advised to use hand sanitizer and/or disinfectant wipes prior to dispensing water.
  • High touch surfaces on the water filling machine are disinfected as frequently as specified in the store’s enhanced sanitation program.
  • If store management has written approval from the local EHO, bottle exteriors may be disinfected onsite prior to refilling for the same customer that brought them in.
  • Staff may take returnable water containers from customers. Staff must wash or sanitize their hands following receipt before engaging in other activities in the store.
Stores that sell beverages in a container that includes a deposit fee are required under the BC Recycling Regulation to collect and redeem those items. In areas where recycling is accepted for return, consider the steps that should be taken to avoid congregation. When collecting empty beverage containers staff and customers can protect themselves by:
  • Practicing physical distancing during return of cans and bottles. Ask customers to place items for return down in a designated area, then step back 2 metres from that location. Mark the area where customers should wait while sorting and counting the items for return occur.
  • Use barriers or wear masks in areas where physical distancing cannot occur
  • Wash hands after handling recycled cans and bottles and after handling cash.

Restaurants and food-serving premises

Restaurants and other premises (cafes, coffee shops, cafeterias, private clubs, pubs, bars, lounges and nightclubs, liquor tasting at distilleries or manufacturers) serving food and/or alcohol are advised to consult the Worksafe BC site for additional information here. 

NEW! Poster for restaurant workers (Click image to enlarge)



  • Restaurants, pubs, and other premises serving alcohol must follow PHO Orders on liquor sales and hours (described below). 
  • Collect the name and phone number of customers to provide to public health in the event contact tracing is required.
  • Ensure customers are separated by either a 2 metre distance or an appropriate barrier, see below reference to physical barriers).
  • Assess areas where crowding and congregation of customers and employees may occur and apply guidance and controls for physical distancing measures in these areas and monitor and control these areas.
  • Have separate cleaning and sanitizing equipment for customer and kitchen areas.
  • Ensure customers remain seated during service, except to use self-serve food or non-alcoholic drink stations, to use the washroom or to leave the premises.
  • Liquor may only be served to customers who are seated (unless the premises manufactures liquor, customers may go to the bar to get a drink, then seat themselves)
  • Seating arrangements for tables, booths and at counters must allow for a two metre space between customers unless the customers are from the same party. Where a two metre space is not possible barriers may be installed instead (described below). 
  • Allow no more than 6 customers to be seated at one table, booth or counter even if they are from the same group. During table service do not ask customers to serve themselves from communal containers (e.g. large bowls of soup);  have employees serve all foods and hand out tableware or utensils to customers.‎

The following types of food premises are exempted from the requirements shown below: cafeterias, private clubs (e.g. clubs that require memberships such as the Legion, golf, yacht, or other sporting club) or premises with a liquor manufacturing licence (e.g. a wine, beer or distilled tasting room).

  • Customers can seat themselves without an employee showing them to a table (i.e. exempted from the requirements to have customers be seated, assigned to a table, booth or counter)
  • Customers must avoid congregation (i.e. premises are exempted from having dedicated employees to ensure customers are seated, or congregating in licensed premises) 
  • Bar counter and standing service (i.e. exempted from requirements to require customers be seated when being served alcohol).

  • Provide hand washing or hand sanitizing near the station
  • Post signs about hand hygiene and physical distancing measures
  • Implement a frequent cleaning and sanitizing of the station and utensils used at the station, and
  • Take necessary steps to avoid congregation.
  • Liquor sales in all bars, pubs and restaurants for onsite consumption must cease at 10 p.m.
  • Unless a full meal service is provided, premises must close by 11:00 pm and all customers must leave the premises.
  • Liquor may not be served until 9 a.m. the following day.
Background music provided by a performer or a disc jockey is allowed under these conditions:
  • Performers must be separated from patrons by a 3 metre distance or perform behind a barrier that protects patrons from respiratory droplets.
  • Patrons must not sing, dance or perform Karaoke
  • Dance floors must be closed
  • Jam and open mic sessions are not allowed
  • Music or other background sounds, such as from televisions, must be no louder than the volume of normal conversation. 
Suitable barriers may be used in areas where a 2 metre physical distancing cannot be used. Suitable should be rigid, impermeable, cleanable and be able to protect seated and standing persons from the transmission of droplets from other persons. More information about suitable barriers can be found in the WorkSafe document COVID-19 health and safety Designing effective barriers.

Barriers may be used in place of 2 metre physical distancing and are also useful at check-outs and any areas where the spread of COVID-19 respiratory droplets may occur. Barriers should be in place between customers unless they are in the same party.

Additional outdoor seating space may occur through expansion of the outdoor seating area but is subject to municipal by-laws. Outdoor space options include sidewalks, additional patios, green space and parking lot outdoor areas. Outdoor seating should not create situations where physical distancing cannot be practiced (example: tables impeding pedestrian traffic on sidewalks). Outdoor seating expansion must meet the same requirements.


Ensure ventilation in outdoor dining areas is adequate. Outdoor winter dining in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Physical distancing in busy work environments, such as kitchens may be difficult. The goal in the kitchen, as with any work-site environment, is to increase space between kitchen staff during meal preparations, and with customers during take-out and delivery services. Operators in food premises are asked to identify how this could best work in their kitchen by recording this in their COVID-19 safety plan

Suggested activities include: 

  • Staggering activities in time to limit the number of staff in a confined area during the same period.
  • Moving activities to another room wherever possible. Separating duties into unused dining areas could be an option for some preparation and packaging.
  • Altering shift times to minimize the number of staff working in close quarters
  • Using markings or dividers in the kitchen to ensure physical distancing 
  • Posting physical distancing reminder posters.‎

Volunteers and people engaged in food delivery activities must practice physical distancing and hand-washing. Contact clients before leaving the groceries or items at the door to confirm they are available to take receipt. When the item is left at the door, knock, ring or alert the client, then step back 2 metres. If required, establish a knock, drop, and go policy with the client. Alcohol hand rubs can be used to clean and disinfect hands after handling items and after touching door bells, etc.Volunteers and people engaged in food delivery activities must practice physical distancing and hand-washing. Contact clients before leaving the groceries or items at the door to confirm they are available to take receipt. When the item is left at the door, knock, ring or alert the client, then step back 2 metres. If required, establish a knock, drop, and go policy with the client. Alcohol hand rubs can be used to clean and disinfect hands after handling items and after touching door bells, etc.
Food Service delivery

Volunteers and people engaged in food delivery activities must practice physical distancing and hand-washing. Contact clients before leaving the groceries or items at the door to confirm they are available to take receipt. When the item is left at the door, knock, ring or alert the client, then step back 2 metres. If required, establish a knock, drop, and go policy with the client. Alcohol hand rubs can be used to clean and disinfect hands after handling items and after touching door bells, etc.

Community bulk water sites

Bottled water dispensing sites in the community
At drive-up or stand-alone dispensing sites, self-service is allowed if the following are observed: 
  • Where the site is unstaffed, the operator of these water bottling sites must provide enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of high touch surfaces and dispensing equipment at least twice per day, with higher frequency desirable.  
  • Physical barriers must allow only one customer at a time. 
  • Signage must be available to describe requirements for physical distancing during water bottling and indicate that hygienic practices are required during dispensing of water at these sites. Users of these services should be reminded to practice hand washing before and after dispensing water. 
  • Where the site is unstaffed, the operator of these water bottling sites must provide enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of high touch surfaces and dispensing equipment at least twice per day, with higher frequency desirable.  
  • Physical barriers must allow only one customer at a time. 
  • Signage must be available to describe requirements for physical distancing during water bottling and indicate that hygienic practices are required during dispensing of water at these sites. Users of these services should be reminded to practice hand washing before and after dispensing water. 
At drive-up or stand-alone dispensing sites, self-service is allowed if the following are observed: 
  • Where the site is unstaffed, the operator of these water bottling sites must provide enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of high touch surfaces and dispensing equipment at least twice per day, with higher frequency desirable.  
  • Physical barriers must allow only one customer at a time. 
  • Signage must be available to describe requirements for physical distancing during water bottling and indicate that hygienic practices are required during dispensing of water at these sites. Users of these services should be reminded to practice hand washing before and after dispensing wate

Links to guidance for food businesses

Related information

·         FOODSAFE Bleach Calculator

·         FAQ for Food Industry (Cornell University)

·         WorkSafeBC Resources COVID-19 support to workers and employers

·         World Health Organization food safety for food businesses COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for Food Businesses[[AH[1]Should these all still be inc








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