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Food Safety Guidance for Individuals and Community Groups Preparing Food for Vulnerable People during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

This article was originally published on Friday 27 March, 2020.

You need to register with us if:

  • you’re regularly preparing food for several vulnerable people who aren’t members of your household
  • the food preparation is organised

You don’t need to register if you’re only occasionally preparing meals for a family member, friend or neighbour.

You should contact our Food Safety Team if you’re not sure whether to register before you start preparing food. You can contact our Food Safety Team on 01622 602450 or by email at

Preparing food at home

You should:

  • make sure that you have a suitable hygienic food preparation area
  • practice good personal hygiene

You shouldn’t prepare food if you have:

  • a skin, nose or throat condition, including a cold or a cough
  • an upset stomach or an infected wound

Food preparation areas

The food preparation area should:

  • be clean and in good condition
  • have a sink with hot and cold running water
  • be free from pets and pests, including rats or mice

You shouldn’t smoke, eat or drink in the food preparation area.

You should:

  • make sure you regularly wash your hands with soap and hot water
  • regularly wash equipment, especially utensils, work surfaces and chopping boards and use a dishwasher to clean equipment, if you have one
  • use disposable products, like kitchen roll or wipes, to wash surfaces and throw them away when you’ve finished using them
  • use an anti-bacterial spray to clean work surfaces and equipment after they’ve been washed
  • rinse work surfaces and equipment after you’ve used chemicals to clean to avoid tainting the food

You should regularly wash any re-usable dish cloths in a washing machine on a hot wash programme.

Personal hygiene

When you’re preparing food, you should:

  • wear clean clothes and a clean apron
  • tie long hair back
  • keep your fingernails short and remove any nail varnish
  • wash your hands, especially after handling rubbish, using the toilet, having a break, blowing your nose, coughing or touching your face

Buying and preparing food

You should only buy food from a recognised supplier and make sure it’s within its ‘use by’ date. When you’re preparing food, you should be aware of allergens and store food correctly until it’s needed.

Food allergens

You must carefully prepare food that contains allergens. There are 14 allergens you must be aware of when preparing food. You’ll find information about the allergens in the food you’ve bought on its packaging.

You must:

  • label the food you’re producing so it shows any allergens that might be in it
  • check that the person you’re supplying the food to doesn’t have any allergies

If you’re preparing food for someone with food allergies, make sure you use separate work areas, storage and equipment to prepare their food.

Storing food

You should store food correctly until it’s needed and also give advice to the person you’re supplying the food to about storing food that’s not going to be eaten right away.

Storing food until it’s needed

Until you use the food you’ve bought, you’ll need to store it according to the instructions on the packaging, which may include refrigeration or freezing.

You should regularly check the temperature of the fridges and freezers you’re using with a thermometer if you have one. They should be about:

  • 5°C for fridges
  • -18°C for freezers

You should:

  • store raw and cooked or ready to eat food, like uncooked meat and cooked chicken, separately
  • store raw meat on a separate shelf, underneath everything else to help avoid contamination
  • store cold food below 8°C and hot food at or above 63°C until it’s going to be eaten
  • cool down and refrigerate or freeze any food that’s not going to be eaten within 90 minutes of preparing it

Delivering food

When you deliver food, you should:

  • wrap it in suitable food grade containers, like plastic or foil containers with lids, and wrap it tightly in cling film or foil
  • keep cold food cold and hot food hot while you’re transporting it
  • keep delivery distances short and delivery times within 30 minutes and no more than two hours

Limiting contact

Make sure you limit contact with the person you’re delivering to by:

  • leaving deliveries on their doorstep instead of handing them over
  • knocking on the door or calling them to let them know you’ve arrived
  • stepping back and staying two metres away from the front door

You should regularly wash your hands and use hand sanitiser, especially if you’re returning items from the households. Alternatively, you can use disposable gloves which you change between deliveries.

You should make sure that anything you receive from someone’s house, including used food containers, is kept separate from any other food you’re transporting and that it’s cleaned thoroughly with hot soapy water and anti-bacterial spray.

Giving advice to households

You should:

  • tell households to store food safely if they’re not going to eat it right away, which could include refrigerating or even freezing it if it’s suitable
  • recommend that they only store food for up to three days if they’re refrigerating it
  • recommend that they thoroughly defrost frozen food in a fridge
  • thoroughly reheat any defrosted or refrigerated food, making sure it’s piping hot before they eat it
  • tell households if the food you’re giving them contains any allergens

Households can store food for longer than three days if it’s able to be frozen.

More information

For more information or advice o, providing food in the community during you can call 01622 602460. Alternatively, you can email

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