New Zealand’s guide to essential food business practices

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What Should You Be Doing in Your Essential Food Operations?

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to New Zealand being placed under complete lockdown in the last week of March with the declaration of a national emergency.

While all non-essential services are closed, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Primary Industries has clarified that essential operations such as food operations can continue to operate.

What are the essential services?

Essential businesses or services according to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are:

Any business that relates to food and beverage packaging, processing and production for export or domestic markets.

  • any entity engaged in offering support services including food inspection, food verification, and safety, biosecurity or associated laboratory services
  • any business that provides veterinary services
  • any business that if closed, would negatively impact animal health and welfare

While food delivery of cooked food is not permitted or considered as essential service, delivery of non-cooked food and meals on wheels are vital services. Dairies are also considered to be essential services and are allowed to be open with ‘one in one out’ policy.

If you operate a supplement firm, you can continue to work if you supply to other essential businesses such as supermarkets or pharmacies. Health food stores, however, are not considered to be essential services. These recommendations have been issued by NZNHP ( New Zealand Natural Health Product). Dairies are allowed to be open with a policy of ‘one in one out.’ Other than the delivery of non-cooked food and meals on wheels, Food delivery is not allowed

What measures can you take in your food business premises to stay safe?

If you operate an essential business such as food business, here are some of the protective measures you should take as per MOI and MPI guidelines:

  • Maintain at least 2 meters of social distancing as per MPI and Ministry of Health (MOH) recommendations
  • In case you cannot maintain 2-metres of distance at your establishment or workplace as outlined by MOH, put in place arrangements to create a distance of 1 to 2 metres between workstations.
  • Implement alternative and flexible work arrangements to keep your employees safe; This includes ensuring staggered or shift-based work times, flexible leave policies and staggering meal breaks.
  • Ensure that your employees have adequate personal protective equipment.
  • Ensure that everyone in your food operations business follows the recommended necessary hygiene measures such as hand washing frequently, using hand sanitizers, cough etiquette, and social distancing. This will help protect your co-workers, employees, and yourself against COVID-19.
  • If an employee in your food operations business is required to work or visit an orchard or farm, you need to provide a permission letter to your staff stating that they are employed in an essential services sector.
  • Eliminate or limit physical interaction among your team with flexible work arrangements, physical distancing, and staggered meal breaks
  • You should also take measures to limit physical interaction between and with your customers. These measures include taking phone or online orders, implementing contactless delivery, and managed entry. Crowding outside should be avoided while practising physical distancing outside and inside the premises
  • Ensure the premises of your food operations business is frequently cleaned particularly EFTPOS terminals, counters, shelves, and other high-touch surfaces
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