COVID-19 and food safety in Alert Level 2
New Zealand Food Safety has reviewed the most recent science from around the world about the risk of being infected with COVID-19 through contact with food or food packaging. To date, there is no evidence of transmission via food or food packaging.
Because of the negligible risk of transmission via food packaging, New Zealand Food Safety does not recommend any form of disinfection.
Coronaviruses cannot grow in food – they need a host (animal or human) to grow in. Cooking for at least 30 minutes at 60°C kills SARS, which is a similar coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are most commonly passed between animals and people and from person-to-person contact.
The virus is nearly always transmitted through direct mucous membrane contact by infectious droplets or aerosols, for example, breathing in airborne virus from the sneeze of someone who is infected.
Food business owners/managers
All primary sector businesses and support services can operate in Alert Level 2, as long as they can operate safely.
Ongoing registration and verification of Food Control Plans, National Programmes, and Risk Management Programmes (RMPs) are still required. Evaluation of RMPs will also go ahead.
Operating in Level 2
To operate in Alert 2, you need to:
- maintain a contact tracing register wherever workers, contractors or customers interact
- maintain physical distancing (inc. 2 metres in retail stores, like supermarkets, and 1 metre in most other environments like cafes and restaurants)
- use alternative ways of working, if possible, to reduce the level of people movement and interaction, such as, staggered breaks, shift working and flexible working
- ensure staff have access to clean face masks throughout the workday.
Businesses must take measures to allow contact tracing and maintain appropriate physical distancing. This includes keeping track of all people (staff and customers) on workplaces.
For New Zealand food businesses operating under the Food Act 2014 (including food service, retail and manufacturing), there is guidance to help keep their customers and staff safe during COVID-19 Alert Level 2.
Additional guidance for primary industry businesses is also available.
It is more important than ever that food businesses apply strict food preparation and hygiene practices.
If you are an employer, we ask that you:
- make sure staff are aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, and how they can self-isolate if the need arises
- supply face masks and other required personal protective equipment to staff and ensure they know how to put on, wear, and take off correctly
- ensure that food handlers are trained appropriately in food hygiene practices appropriate to their premises
- ensure effective supervision of food handlers to reinforce hygienic practices
- ensure that appropriate facilities are provided for hand washing and/or sanitation (for example, alcohol gels/wipes) to enable food handlers to practice good hygiene
- ensure that food handlers and external contractors are aware that they must report any signs/symptoms of respiratory illness before or during work to their employer
- be vigilant and ensure that food handlers and other staff are not ill and are fit to work
- regularly check on staff health and ensure that staff with symptoms stay home until medical advice is obtained and they are cleared to return to work. Make sure you are aware of staff who have recently returned from overseas
- must not require or knowingly allow workers to come to a workplace when they are sick with COVID-19, or if they have been advised to self-isolate under public health guidelines for COVID-19.
Scheduled food verification
Food verification services are essential services to support businesses. It’s very important that food verification services continue during the COVID-19 response to make sure food safety is managed properly.
We have set up a Remote Check system of Food Act 2014 businesses as an interim measure until on-site verifications can resume. This means that the Food Act verifiers that have completed the necessary Remote Check training can complete scheduled verifications with food businesses off-site, via a phone call or using online technology such as Skype.
For more information, verifiers can visit the Food Verifiers Academy, and food businesses owners/managers can contact their verifier or email email@example.com.
Making changes to a food business
There are requirements food businesses must follow to ensure their food is safe and suitable for consumers.
New Zealand Food Safety has developed ways for businesses – operating under the Food Act 2014 and Animal Products Act 1999 – to meet these requirements, so they can operate under Alert Level 2.
This includes adding on key operations like delivery, transport, and making chilled/frozen food.
The first step is for you to check if your business can operate at Alert Level 2 – please visit the Government’s COVID-19 website.
Making changes to a Food Act business
The following guidance is for businesses which operate under the Food Act 2014 (including butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, delicatessens, cafes, restaurants, takeaways, food service, manufacturers, food transporters, cheesemakers, winemakers and horticultural growers) who want to extend their scope of operation under COVID Alert Level 2.
Food businesses need to follow these steps:
Step 1 Check your current Food Control Plan or National Programme
If you already have the cards (in the packs below) that you need, then all you need to do is follow the Safe Practice Guidance (Step 6).
Step 2 Add any cards you need
If you don’t have the cards, download the relevant pack and attach these cards to your current plan or programme:
- Pack 1. Adding takeaway/pickup [PDF, 301 KB]
- Pack 2. Delivery [PDF, 413 KB]
- Pack 3. Meal kits and repacking bulk food [PDF, 476 KB]
- Pack 4. Chilled/frozen food [PDF, 689 KB]
- Pack 5. Making jams, chutneys, and sauces [PDF, 748 KB]
Step 3 Check that you are meeting requirements for the added Packs
Note: There is an extra step for businesses that want to add Pack 4 (to prepare chilled and frozen meals). Because the food safety risks are greater for these processes, these businesses need an off-site Scope Change Check interview within five (5) working days of operating to check they are managing the associated food safety risks. There is no charge to the business for this check.
Step 4 Email your Registration Authority listed in your plan or programme
If you have made changes to what you do (including adding a new Pack), then you need to let your Registration Authority know.
If you are adding on Pack 4 (preparing chilled and frozen food), your Registration Authority will arrange a Scope Change Check to make sure you understand how to manage the food safety risks.
Step 5 Follow your revised plan or programme
Step 6 Follow the Safe Practice Guidance
Note: For guidance about re-opening your food business
Re-opening a Food Business Checklist [PDF, 197 KB]
Making changes to an Animal Products Act business
The following steps are for businesses that operate under the Animal Products Act, including egg producers, dual operator butchers, dairy producers and suppliers of raw drinking milk.
Operators already have ‘click and collect’ within the scope of their Risk Management Programmes (RMP). So to help businesses who want to start delivering food to their customers, we have created a RMP template for packing, labelling and/or delivery.
- Download A1 RMP Template for Packaging, Labelling and Delivery of Animal Products. This has been pre-evaluated and does not require further evaluation.
Risk Management Programme template for packaging, labelling and delivery of animal products – Attachment A1 [PDF, 488 KB]
- Attach this to your current RMP. Including this pre-evaluated RMP template will be considered to be a minor amendment of your RMP.
- Notify your verifier and MPI Approvals (firstname.lastname@example.org) that you have added the respective operation(s) to the scope of your business’s RMP.
- Start following the additional procedures within your business operation.
- Once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, you will need to formally advise MPI Approvals if you want to continue with the additional or changed operations.
Note: farmers selling and delivering raw drinking milk to consumers who are registered under the raw drinking milk Regulated Control Scheme (RCS), must continue to follow the requirements of the Raw Milk for Sale to Consumers Regulations 2015 and Animal Products Notice: Raw Milk for Sale to Consumers as well as meeting the COVID-19 rules for home delivery.
Animal Products Notice: Raw Milk for Sale to Consumers [PDF, 926 KB]
Safety and hygiene checks for re-opening food businesses
Food businesses re-opening under Alert Level 2 should go through the following checks to ensure food safety and hygiene practices.
If you are a business that requires travel across the alert level boundary for work, information about permitted travel, the Business Travel Register, and exemptions is available on MBIE’s website.
The Business Travel Register will generate Business Travel Documents for workers to display at checkpoints. This includes a QR code, which enables Police at the cordon to verify the document digitally against the travel register.
It’s important to note that you cannot use the same travel documentation used during previous alert level events and must apply again.
For information about testing of essential workers crossing the Alert Level boundary, visit the COVID-19 website.
Businesses and workers need to continue to comply with the Government’s COVID-19 alert level settings and observe any protocols for their particular industry.
For Food Act questions, contact us at email@example.com or phone 0800 00 83 33.
For Animal Products Act questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0800 00 83 83.
For latest sector-specific advice on COVID-19:
- Primary sector businesses, services, and support services
- For supermarkets, visit MBIE’s Workplace operations at COVID-19 alert levels